LFH: Day 13

by Sunita

It was a relief to get through the teaching part of the week. I turned my attention to the admin stuff that I had put aside while I was figuring out classes and Zoom. In addition to the usual department and university tasks, I also needed to finish setting up my laptop

A couple of weeks before spring break I finally pulled the trigger and nuked the Windows 10 OS on my work laptop. I got Debian 10 up and running and installed a few of the additional programs I knew I wanted, and I got the dock, external keyboard, and mouse working. But I was short of a fully satisfactory system, and now I also had to manage new video and communication programs. I’d been switching between computers and between different Zoom apps and it was frustrating because each option had drawbacks.

Yesterday morning I managed to get the Linux Zoom client for Debian installed successfully, and what a difference that made. It seems to be full-featured and I can keep it running in the background. I also discovered that Microsoft Teams has a Linux version and that turned out to be relatively easy to install as well. Once both were up and running I uninstalled Google Chrome. I also installed my preferred alternative to Microsoft Office for simple tasks, which is the desktop (non-server) version of OnlyOffice. I’m a long way from a Linux expert so getting everything I wanted felt like a major accomplishment. And I got my bluetooth earbuds to work after a little bit of tinkering and dowloading.

That done, I logged into Zoom for yet another admin meeting. I’m on a college scholarship committee for incoming students. It gives research-focused students a full scholarship in one of four areas, and I’m on the one for social science. I’ve done it for years and I enjoy it a great deal. Usually we invite the finalist candidates out for a weekend and show them the campus and then interview them. The university visit is frequently a deciding factor for these kids, who are highly sought after. Obviously this year the campus visit, which would have taken place this weekend, wasn’t possible, but the College decided to keep as much of the schedule as they could, switching to virtual hangouts with current scholars and then video interviews with the committee.

The committee meeting was the first time we’d talked to each other anywhere but email (usually we have a couple of meetings during the finalist selection process), and it was designed both to address last-minute issues and to have a dry-run video conference, since we’ll do that after the interviews again for our final decision-making. It went fine, in fact it was surprisingly normal, with the people who don’t talk not talking much and the people who like to talk talking quite a bit. I have mixed feelings about whether turning as much of the physical weekend as possible into a virtual one is the right way to go, but it’s not my decision and I do want the process to work, so I’ll do my bit. I’m at least happy that I’m fairly comfortable at this point with the technology, and if it doesn’t work we have backup phone numbers to call.

That done, TheH and I had lunch and then I went back to work. No more Zoom meetings, thankfully, but lots of email back and forth. Everything takes longer when you can’t stick your head into an office or wander down the hall to ask a question. But compared to the previous few days it was definitely slower-paced. I have two more time-sensitive DUS tasks to complete by the end of the month and then I might be able to do some of my own work. Fingers crossed.

The other big event of the day was the university’s announcement that the current policies of working from home and staying off campus would be extended. They were previously set to expire on April 7 and now they are extended to April 22. It’s not a surprise. Missouri’s cases are rising but we’re still in the early stages of the spike that is predicted, and we probably won’t peak until May.

We ordered dinner from the fried chicken joint. They’re still open and the chicken and sweet potato fries are still excellent. They’re mostly takeaway when things are normal, so they’ve just removed the few tables and chairs and redesigned the ordering and pickup to create distance and remove direct interaction.

Tomorrow is Day 14 of our self-isolation. We’re still fine. I hope you all are too.