Tuesday, March 24, 2020

COVID-19 Journal, Part Three

My COVID-19 Journal continues, this time even more rambling than before! See previous entries here and here.

Sat. 21 March 2020

Today I shaved for the first time since March 9, right before things really got started. Weird.

As a bearded person, I don’t “shave” per se, but usually about once a week I trim my beard and shave the parts of my face where I don’t want beard. If I wasn’t in quarantine, I might shave it completely for the sake of public safety. But as is, I’ll keep it for the sake of private laziness.

Serious question that I’m afraid to ask: Do you have to take a shower every day when you’re in quarantine? I can’t be the only person this applies to, but sometimes if I’m not leaving the house, I don’t bother with the whole bathing thing. But since we’re all supposed to be washing our hands vigorously and often, maybe washing the rest of one’s body at least once a day is also recommended?

Another weird thing: on a whim I weighed myself this morning (which I usually avoid doing for all the typical reasons). I’ve lost a couple pounds this week, maybe from stress, maybe from not eating out all the time, maybe both. Not that I recommend a global pandemic as a weight loss plan. Also, as someone I used to know used to say: it’s like taking a bucket of water out of Lake Michigan.

I’m trying to have a “weekend” as a way to unwind from the stress of the last couple weeks, and to get ready for the start of my hastily-created and ill-conceived online portions of my classes on Monday. I’m really worried that some of my students won’t be able to do the online thing for various reasons (lack of technology or internet access, general upheaval in their lives, anxiety about trying to finish the semester in a global pandemic, etc.).

I’ve been trying to read Sherri Tepper’s novel Grass since last week. I can’t remember where, but somewhere I saw it on a list of classic science fiction with excellent worldbuilding and feminist themes. About a quarter through, I think there are some interesting ideas, but I’m having trouble getting into it. It’s, as the kids say, a slow burn. And maybe I just don’t like space horses enough (don’t ask). Or maybe the general anxiety of everything is not leaving me with the concentration level needed for a novel like this right now. So I’m going to put it down for a bit and try coming back to it later.

So this afternoon I picked up Stephen King’s Cujo instead. I’ve made it my mission to read the rest of King’s “A-list” novels, so after this I just have Christine left. Someday I may read all of his books, but that’s… a lot. I may never get to lower tier books like Dream Catcher or Storm of the Century. There’s also something oddly comforting about old school Stephen King (similar to the case with old school Metallica, as discussed in my previous entry). But my real goal is to re-read the Dark Tower series again soon. 

I have the boxed set of the Dark Tower novels, which was a little gift for myself to read hopefully this summer after hopefully getting tenure. I even got some supplemental materials (The Dark Tower: A Concordance and A Dark Tower Companion). I may have to start it early, but then I also have Black House, which is a sequel to The Talisman (both novels co-written with Peter Straub). I’ve heard that Black House is practically a Dark Tower book itself.

So, we’ll see. Even before … all this, I wasn’t sure I’d actually be able to wait until the summer. That series and its delightful weirdness have stuck with me in a way few other books series have. So I may be starting my next trip to the Tower early. I’m just glad I have all the books at home. But I worry even I will succumb to e-books before all this is over.

In other news, Beth mentioned that our favorite local brewpub is selling canned beer out the window of their location in our neighborhood. So we might walk down there and patronize one of our favorite local establishments that’s sure to be hit pretty hard by all this. We’ll be sure to leave them a big tip. While social distancing. And using a lot of hand sanitizer and washing our hands when we get home.

22 March 2020

March 2020: The month the human race came together and collectively sighed, “Well, fuck.”

Mon. 23 March 2020

Today among other things I had to: start actually doing my online classes in my hastily set up home office in the cats’ dining room (technically also the humans’ dining room, not that we ever use it), finish my notes for this week of my course Ancient Women Philosophers: India and Greece, go to curb-side pick-up at Best Buy to pick up a new router so all this online stuff will go easier (I drove by a Taco Bell and Dairy Queen without stopping; it only took a global pandemic to give me some discipline), make an online quiz for my World Philosophy course, figure out how to say that a bunch of conferences were canceled on my CV …

So: fun times.

Tues. 24 March 2020

Today I received a nice note from a student thanking me for my kindness and flexibility with my classes. The student said that they think other students feel the same way, too. I’ve always thought that a little kindness goes a long way in an unkind world, but I feel this even more deeply now. I told the student it really meant a lot to me to hear that.

It has been really nice to hear from my students, even just a perfunctory “I agree with that point” post on the discussion boards. I’ve been worried about them. I still am, of course, but knowing that at least some of them are still out there trying to be students warms my heart. I’m more worried about the students I haven’t heard from. Maybe if they don’t chime in by the end of the week, I’ll start trying to contact them.

Today would have been a teaching day for me: office hours 11-12, class 12:15-1:30, lunch, class 3:05-4:20, and class 5:00-6:15. One thing I never liked about online teaching is that you don’t really have “teaching days.” Instead teaching bleeds over into your whole life. I need to figure out a new protocol about that. I used to reserve Fridays for research days: aside from emails, I swore off any prep or grading on Fridays. I doubt I’ll be able to keep that up, but maybe I’ll figure out something. Or I won’t. Research productivity may take a backseat for a while. And that’s okay.

I do need a whole day or at least a chunk of several hours.  I don’t understand people who are like, “I just work on my article for 30 or 45 minutes a day.” I just don’t work that way. Maybe this sounds pretentious or whatever, but I don’t think philosophy can work that way. You need time to absorb ideas and to think of new ones. Even reading difficult philosophy can’t really be done in 30 minute increments. This is probably why I get most of my research done in the summer.

The larger national and global situation…? I can’t even right now. Maybe later.

I’m generally against the idea of lecture videos, especially now when I can’t assume my students have regular internet access or technology resources. Besides, those videos are super boring. I did make a short optional welcome video. Here’s the text of what I said (more or less).

“Hello, students! It’s your professor, Dr. Mills. I just wanted to make a little welcome video to show you that I’m not a robot (at least I don’t think so). I’m working in my “home office” (aka, my cats’ dining room). I’ll post videos of them later. Take care of yourselves. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay home if you can. Wash your hands. We’re all in this together for the greater good. So, welcome to the online portion of the course! See you on the discussion boards. Take care.”

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