Living From Home: Day 2
Sunday was another work day. My workweek and weekend days have always blended together, but that’s even more true now. We have an extra week of spring break, but all of that is going to go to setting up the last five weeks of classes and everything else that happens in the spring semester. Usually it’s a hectic but enjoyable time, as senior undergraduates get ready to leave, the daffodils, tulips, and cherry blossoms come out, and warm weather beckons.
This year? This Sunday before the normal end of spring break was cold, cloudy, and breezy. We barely broke 40F. I continued working on and adding to my ToDo lists. I Skyped with one of my grad assistants and emailed with the other. I scheduled a phone conversation with my DUS alter ego. He and I have been alternating semesters as DUS for the last two years because for various reasons we weren’t able to appoint someone to the regular three-year term. He’s a good friend and wonderful colleague, so working together has been a pleasure. I wanted to run ideas by him before I took any concrete steps to manage the upheaval in undergrad teaching, which is where most of the upheaval is occurring, at least the most obvious upheaval. We figured out a plan and I’ll work on it today.
He also caught me up on what has been going on at the departmental and divisional levels. Our Arts & Sciences faculty range from people who are extremely proficient at various kinds of teaching technology to those who have never logged into Canvas, our main tech platform. Our Teaching Center is staffed by three people and is completely overwhelmed. I don’t consider myself a technophobe or technologically illiterate but there are plenty of tools I’ve never used, so who knows what the modal level of knowledge is. I guess I’ll find out for my department. And I have to make sure that the grad teaching assistants aren’t falling through the cracks, informationally or otherwise.
I managed to create an account on Qualtrics, which is the university’s survey platform, and I started devising a survey for my students to answer so that we know their situations before finalizing a revised syllabus and course plan. I still have to figure out Zoom, which is the video conferencing platform. And I want to find something like Slack so that department members have a place to talk, ask questions, share information, and so on. There are Slack channels set up by different units in the university, but I don’t think we have an institutional account with them (I don’t even know if we need one). We have something called Microsoft Teams, which may do similar stuff. Something to add to the ToDo list.
We took a break and went for a walk outside. We walked to campus and back (about 3.5 miles round trip) and went to our offices. We made sure to go nowhere but our own offices and we sanitized our hands before entering. I wore gloves to protect the doorknobs and handles I had to touch and I used my arm (covered by my jacket) to switch the lights on and off. I’m pretty confident we avoided transmitting anything assuming we have anything to transmit; no one was there and we weren’t sneezing or coughing. We wouldn’t have gone except we needed files and in my case my work laptop was still in my office, and since I wasn’t sure where a couple of files were I couldn’t easily send someone in to get them. I felt a bit guilty but I think the precautions we took were adequate.
The campus was almost entirely empty except for a handful of international students who were taking pictures of the flowering cherry blossom trees, posing in front of them and wandering around. They were wearing those completely inadequate masks, which seems to be a common response even though it doesn’t do anything but keep your droplets to yourself if you’re infected, which social distancing does without masks. I guess it’s a human response to use whatever means you have whether it’s effective or not. Kind of like buying massive amounts of toilet paper.
My project for the next two weeks is to eat through the stuff in our freezers and pantry, so we had shepherd’s pie leftovers for lunch from the freezer (better than I expected given it had been in there a while) and bottled pasta sauce over spaghetti for dinner. The pasta sauce was part of a care package from ages ago and miraculously was still before its sell-by date. I can’t remember the last time I ate bottled pasta sauce, since we always make our own. But it was from a gourmet store and made by a local chef’s company. We doctored it with anchovies, white wine and italian parsley and it was surprisingly delicious.
There are all sorts of recommendations around for binge-watching on TV, and I’m sure we’ll get around to some of them (we watched a Vera episode on Saturday night) but last night we just caught up with Friday’s Washington Week in Review and the PBS Newshour. Judy Woodruff closed the latter with a personal message, something she never does, asking us to be kind and look out for the weaker and less advantaged among us. Yes, yes.
Getting outside for a walk made such a huge difference, despite the dreariness of the day. So did showering, making the bed, and putting on non-pyjama clothes. Granted, I’m mostly in athleisure, but I’m clean and presentable. Baby steps. 🙂
I am finding your posts fascinating–your To Do list must be reaching novel length by now. While I certainly am not familiar with putting together an online course. I am familiar with the knowledge that there are many more steps involved than you first envision. Good luck to you.
Here in Maryland, all of the public schools are closed for 2 weeks, as are the libraries, casinos, most churches. A number of the support programs for the handicapped are also closed. This last one affects us, as our adult son, who lives at home, usually attends such a day program. Now he’s all ours for the next two weeks. His favorite activity–going out for lunch!! Sigh… We will cope, of course.
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@Barb: Oh, that’s hard. I’m somewhat grateful to have plenty of occupy me. Much as I’d like to believe I’d spend my downtime reading and exercising, I’m more likely to be glued to the internet, going down pandemic rabbit holes, and no one needs that!
Good luck with your enforced home time. I know you’ll cope, whatever comes your way. (((hugs)))
I’m going bananas not having any social interaction since 2/28 (my husband has an immune disorder and we live 5 miles from the epicenter of the outbreak in WA State). I’ve been WFH for a week and so’s he; we’re walking (just went for a lunch walk). So things are quiet here.
Good luck with getting everyone up to speed on the online teaching stuff. My bud is an academic librarian at UCSD and is in the same boat. Good luck.
@Noonie: Oh my goodness, that is scary. And I’m sure by next week I’ll be where you are now. I told TheH that we are fortunate to be kind of anti-social, but even we like human contact! I’m spending a lot of time on email, video, and phone, so it’s not completely gone, but it’s seriously weird.
I worry so much about people like you and your husband, or my colleague whose wife is in the same situation (two colleagues and their wives, actually). High-risk people are everywhere, we just don’t think about it that way. It’s SO MUCH the responsibility of those of us who don’t seem to be high-risk to be extra-careful.
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@Sunita: Yeah, I was so deeply offended early on by the whole, “don’t sweat it, it’s just old people and those with medical conditions.” Not even because of my husband or friends (I have many friends in the spoonie community), but just because what, they’re garbage humans? We don’t give a shit about loss of life?
What’s weird, or at least what I didn’t expect, is that now my governor is taking this VERY seriously (Govr Inslee is a badass, I’ve decided), and it’s a real, live threat and not just something my PTS sees as a potential, I’m MORE upset, not less. I thought I’d be relieved, as in, “Oh, good, people are finally taking this seriously.” That’s not what’s happened; it’s “Shit, wait, you mean this shit is real??” On the other hand, it gave me some good ideas for content for my blog and FB lives, and that helped me feel like I was contributing to our collective solution-making. So there’s that. 🙂
The hub and I just went for a fast walk at lunch. We really hoofed it and it felt great. We’re now hunkered down back in our home office. He seems fine with working from home but man, I’m ready to start talking to the trees. I’m fine spending quality alone time but I’d be bananas in solitary confinement, lol.
@Noonie: We missed the window for our walk. We’ve been busy fighting with Qualtrics and Canvas. Ah, the exciting life of an academic. We conquered Qualtrics and almost have a generic survey, but Kaltura still has the upper hand so recorded short lecture videos are still in the hope-over-reality stage.
I agree with you on your governor, he seems to be doing all the right things now.
And I just read that six Bay Area counties are going into lockdown. They’re calling it “shelter-in-place,” I call it basically a 2-week 24-hour curfew, with a few opportunities for food and medication shopping. Wow. They’re probably not wrong in terms of response, but this will make life so hard for so many.
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Thank you for following me! I need to fix WP, because it’s supposed to be pointing at https://acatherinenoon.com, not the old Yellow Bikini. But I’m glad you did that, because now I know it’s pointing at the wrong thing. 🙂
Yeah, the whole curfew thing is making some people in WA go bananas, but I’m at the point where I’ve lost any patience with the stupid. I don’t have time for them to get up to speed on the science, or to convince them that science is a thing and that they should pay attention to it in an emergency. It’s like those jackasses that refuse to evacuate in a hurricane or a fire and are the first ones crying that the gubment didn’t help them in their time of need. Disgusted. This isn’t even difficult, like apparently climate science is; this is basic high school fucking biology for christsakes. GAH.
@Noonie: The people who don’t think this is a real public health catastrophe boggle my mind. I do understand not being able to grasp the rapidity with which the virus spreads, because exponential growth is not intuitive. We think in terms of arithmetic, not exponential growth. And sometimes it’s hard for people to understand samples and biases within samples. You hear that there are only 10 cases in your region and you think that the number is correct. But if people aren’t tested … well, I’m preaching to the choir here, but you see what I mean.
In terms of response to this virus, we are really reaping the effects of raising a scientifically illiterate citizenry.
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I would argue illiterate period. That’s been my biggest disappointment in the American people over the time that George W was in office and again now that we have another unpopular GOP president. It’s the rise in stupid, and the glorification in stupid. News from states like Ohio that want to make religious explanations for accepted science required learning, or the creation museum that opened with a $9 mil endowment and showed people standing next to dinosaurs in the same geological epoch. The repercussions of the loss of education are too distant to be seen by the unimaginative, and the consequences, when they come, are too entrenched to fix because it requires, literally, a minimum of twelve years of schooling. And that’s just up through high school, and the dumbing down of our high schools is appalling.
When I got my MBA, I was shocked (I know you’re an academic and probably already know this, but shit was I in the dark) by how frankly illiterate some of my fellow masters students were. Incomprehensibly unable to write. Like not even a regular sentence. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m a novelist, but I’m NOT expecting a professional author’s ability and practice – but by dog, if you’re at the masters level, I sure as eff expect a bachelors level of proficiency! And it’s NOT there. I can’t imagine what teaching freshman classes are like. I feel like we need a reading comprehension class, FFS.
Ordinarily, I can hide my fury around willful stupidity because it makes me unpopular at parties. But watching some of the comments, for example, on my governor’s FB feed about going too far (we haven’t gone far enough, sunshine, or don’t you pay attention to the deaths??) make me foam at the mouth. Even one of my husband’s friends, who lives down in the Tacoma area (epicenter 2 in WA State), doesn’t see why they can’t all go to church and why they have to limit contact. Dude’s got six kids and a stay at home wife with an immune disease. Srsly?? You don’t like the missus anymore, dude? FFS.
And FFS has become my go-to statement these days. It’s hard to find solace anywhere. I deleted FB entirely from my phone and logged out on my computer, but then had to log back in because my Reiki community has a group on there and I want the calming community. But I wish I could figure out how to filter for just that stuff.
P.S. Idris Alba just tested positive, and Kid Rock (jackass) refuses to close his bar despite a city order shutting him down. Fucktard.
Stay safe, professor. Please. Well wishes to you and yours.
I’ve been working remotely since Thurs. Mr C already works from home and we’re lucky to both have our own offices. Right now it feels like it did when I did freelance web design from home and it reminds me why I was so glad to start doing contract work onsite last year. It’s interesting reading about your work Sunita. I sometimes miss having students but I don’t miss teaching.
Chicago is shutting down. I’m relieved. It’s unnerving but I’m glad that our officials are taking action. Finally. I’m glad to finally stop wondering if it’s time to work remote, if it’s time to withdraw. I’m glad to be doing something. Even if it’s just staying in. Not self quarantining. Just doing my civic duty and not going out.
I know of two cases – friends of friends. But so far everyone I know personally is OK.
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PS I’ve used Teams and Slack and they’re pretty similar.
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@Cleo: STL is finally shutting down too, and I agree that it’s good to see officials take consistent and firm action. Schools and restaurants and other facilities are stepping up to provide breakfasts and lunches to their disadvantaged students, so that is starting to happen as well.
Thanks for the info on Teams, that helps! For a variety of reasons, not least privacy and security, I’d prefer to stay with something the university recommends and supports, but I’m out of my depth here. Not for long, I guess. I’ll be a Teams expert in no time. 😉