Tuesday, March 31, 2020

How We Say "I See You" in this Brave New World: Two Examples

Example 1: Today I focused rather heavily on "get some human contact, dummy." I checked up in on an elderly acquaintance who is lonely. I Zoom'd with two nephews and one sibling and one friend from work. I had a shouted conversation with another work friend across the street. And an e-mail back-and-forth with another. And my day got parceled up into 45-minute bites in which it was impossible to get anything done. It is 7:15 pm. and today has turned into time soup. My expectations for today have vanished. I feel ashamed and vaguely greazy. I need better balance between the elements of my chore chart on any given day.

Example 2: My one accomplishment was to do a load of laundry... sort of. I threw a load of sheets into the washer in the (community) laundry room... then promptly forgot about them for two hours. When I scrambled down, someone had put them in the dryer for me and started the cycle. I scribbled an apologetic note to them, which they in turn scribbled a "no worries" on, which was nice, beyond the original nice of actually starting my load drying rather than just piling it on the table wet. So when I went down to collect the actual dry sheets, I left this person a gift bag with a thank-you note on the outside... and a roll of toilet paper inside.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Notorious Has Come Unstuck in Time

Here at Grit Beach U, we whipsawed in the course of a week from "Good morning! Today's class is the last class for a week and then we're all online for the next five weeks!" to "oops, okay, now that you spend five days doing that, we're switching it up to next week for a start, and also it's till the end of the semester." Understandable: our university, like all, has been struggling to respond, and it's had to change with events. So: so have we.

But one thing that has happened to me -- and to others, if anecdotal evidence can be believed -- is that we have, like Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim, come unstuck in time. What day is it? How did it get to be 11:30 at night when I never managed to put on pants? Should I be doing something right now? Is there a class? Does time have any meaning at all anymore?

And I realized that, with all the talk about how parents at home are needing to provide structure for their children's days while coping with the way this has upended their own lives (and mad props, as the kids used to say, to both professor-parents and suddenly-unemployed parents, both of whom are coping with a completely upside-down world), we were forgetting that we, like children, used to go to school, and that provided our structure: weekdays & weekends; spring break and summer; finals week and commencement. And we, like children, need that structure.

Longtime readers will know what this means.

The Chore Chart is back:

The categories are:
  1. Writing/Research
  2. Teaching/Class Prep
  3. Exercise
  4. Household chores
  5. Something I've been putting off
  6. Get some human contact
The goal: check off five out of six each day. A bit of a bumpy start, as you can see. But even done bumpily, it's already been helping.

Now, I just need to find a box of gold stars...

Friday, March 20, 2020

On Sheltering and Shelf Space

Today, we have gone on what is variously being called a “lockdown” or “shutdown” or a “shelter in place order.” These terms have been flying around for a bit now, and there is no clear agreement what they mean. In general terms, all “non-essential” businesses need to shut down. So grocery stores, pharmacies, and laundromats: still open. Bars and exercise places: closed. Restaurants: takeout only. This prompts questions about coffee shops & roasters: do they get to keep running if you take your coffee to go?

Sorry: got sidetracked there. Anyway, one thing that seems clear is that we individual humans are not supposed to go anywhere we don’t absolutely need to (again, open to interpretation — my thought is that if you’re out and there isn’t a dog on a leash in front of you, you should be prepared to say why you’re out, and make a case that it’s essential). So last night, when this was announced, I hopped on my bike — in the rain — and tore up for campus. Filled the saddlebag with the remaining books I thought I’d need, and headed home.

My old blogfriend Squadratomagico remarked, when she visited me in my newish abode, that I had hardly any bookshelves. “My books live at my office” I said. Well, Squadrato, I should have taken your comment as an omen and invested in more shelves.

Monday, March 16, 2020

What does it mean to be a suddenly-online proffie?

Recording a greeting, with cue cards.
(BVM optional)

Well, it means learning new things. REALLY fast.

You are probably putting too much work into it all.

If you are very, very lucky, you will find a friend to do this with, and you will laugh together at your small triumphs. ("omigod! the meeting invitation! we figured it out! yes! I DO see you! Hi!!!")

You will realize exactly what your tics are -- me, I move my head while talking, more than the average bobblehead doll.

And hopefully, you will learn exactly how little is in your control, and you will be okay.

Really and truly,

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Plague days

Still haven't gotten around to the migration. But some shit's been going down lately, as you may have heard...

And in honor of this, and of being asked to teach from home for the next month, I went ahead and re-connected my home internet. So I'll be blogging again. Here, until I'm elsewhere. So there.