Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Random, Rambling Thoughts

I know I say this every year – even years without pandemics – but how the hell is the year half over? The year seems to be flying by, especially given that March was three years long.


I recently finished teaching a summer intersession course at SFU. “Intersession” is Latin from “cram a 12 week course into 6 weeks”. At least, I think that’s the translation. This course was already planned to be an online course even before The Virus, so I was quite lucky that I’d already created a bunch of online materials (including videos that I filmed using a lightboard which was my favourite thing ever) between Nov and Feb, back when one could do things like go onto campus and be in the same room as a camera person.

I’m not a huge fan of teaching a 12 week course in 6 weeks at the best of times – I feel like it’s really hard for students to absorb the material and have time to apply what they are learning in such a short period of time – and doing it in the middle of a pandemic, like everything one tries to do in the middle of a pandemic, is that much harder. Usually I pair up teams of students with non-profit organizations and they develop an evaluation plan for that non-profit (as it’s such a good experience for students to work with real clients and the non-profit parnters tell me it provides them with useful learning and ideas too). But this year I felt like NPOs had enough on their plates without having to work with a bunch of students on a super tight timeline while everything they usually do is up in the air. So we just made do with working on evaluation plans for programs that students either already were familiar with or that they could find enough information online to work with. Then George Floyd was murdered and there was a global uprising in response, which was a lot for students to process, especially Black, indigenous, and students of colour, on top of everything else. And this was, for many students, on top of working, doing practicum placements, taking care of family, etc.

On my part, I was dealing with trying to figure out how to connect with students in this new remote way, marking stuff for a larger-than-I-expected-class as quickly as I could (which still didn’t feel fast enough), while living in this pandemic world, while also trying to learn more about white privilege and how to be an anti-racist (both personally and within my profession), so that I can contribute to equity and racial justice instead of just benefitting from our white supremacist society and being ignorant of my own complicity1. So I guess maybe that’s why the past six weeks have been a bit of whirlwind for me.


Now that that course is done, and all the side projects I’ve been working on for the past year are also done, and I don’t have any courses to teach until September, I’m in that weird (to me) place where I just have to work my regular workday from Monday to Friday and then I can do whatever I feel like with my evenings and weekends2. It’s such an unusual place for me, and it makes me feel a little bit uneasy, to be honest. But I do have a very long list of books I’ve been wanting to read, and I’m kind of excited to do that.

I also figure I need to take some vacation time at some point. Can’t really go anywhere (thanks COVID), but it would be good to get a bit of a mental break. And maybe do some of the things I’ve been meaning to do around the condo – like get some new (cat-proof) blinds and paint the insides of the closets and purge my filing cabinets of all the many papers that I no longer need. And write all the blog postings that I’ve been meaning to write. I also want to make more jams and pickles this year. Maybe go for some local hikes. Feeling very lucky that I live in a place that is spectacularly beautiful in the summer and where the pandemic is reasonably well under control, so I can do these things.

  1. This is very much an ongoing work-in-progress for me. []
  2. Hence why I’m here writing out a long, rambling blog posting. []

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9 Weeks And Counting

So somehow we are 9 weeks into this whole stay-at-home/isolation/quarantine/shelter-in-place/lockdown thing. I struggle with what to call it, as here in BC we’ve actually not been ordered to stay-at-home or shelter-in-place or quarantine (unless you are coming across the border or have a specific reason, like you’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive or have tested positive yourself). We were just asked nicely to stay-at-home unless we were in an essential job and then we (mostly) all just did. Or, as Justin McElroy put it:

As other provinces started to announcing their plans to re-open, BC was getting criticized for not announcing plans to re-open stuff as soon as other provinces. But the province pointed out that other provinces were opening things that we never closed. In fact, that only things that were ordered closed in BC were dine-in restaurants and personal care services (like hair stylists, massage therapists, physiotherapists, nail salons – stuff where the practitioner has to get close to you to provide their service). Three of the health authorities in BC ordered gyms to close, though that was actually quite recent (and I learned at one of Dr. Henry’s pressers that that was because there were cases of COVID-19 that were spread at gyms) and the vast majority of gyms closed voluntarily.


It helped a lot that many businesses, organizations, and post-secondary institutions quickly moved to set up working-from-home where possible. Not every type of business can easily be moved to remote work, so there were many companies and employees who made huge sacrifices by shutting down voluntarily. And we’ve seen that some businesses haven’t been able to weather the storm and won’t be reopening ever again, which is really sad. Some companies found have ways to creatively continue to operate in new ways that are safe in the middle of the pandemic. I guess it’s kind of like evolution of organisms – “survival of the fittest” is context dependent. When the context changes, sometimes it’s just luck of the draw as to whether you fit well – or can quickly adapt – to the next context.


Many people are talking about being excited to get a haircut once we move into the next phase of re-opening society. I only usually get my hair done like every 6 months in normal times and I had it done in January, so I wouldn’t even be thinking about a haircut for another month or two anyway. (I love my hairstylist and will be delighted when I get to see her again, when she feels that it’s safe to re-open her shop, but at least as much because I want to catch up with her as friend as because she makes my hair beautiful). I’m most excited to see my massage therapist! When he feels it’s safe to start seeing patients again, of course.


Every month Google sends me an email to tell me where I’ve been the previous month. Because, as my mother puts it, my phone is spying on me. I found the email from April hilarious. Here are some of the images from it:

Clearly, Google can verify that I’ve been staying close to home and not doing anything frivolous.


Due to the lack of going anywhere, my car battery died (We’ve been taking Scott’s car for grocery trips). I used to only drive my car once or twice a week (to hockey mostly), but I probably hadn’t driven it in about a month when I tried to start it up to go to the store and it was dead. Figuring that I didn’t really need it since I don’t really go anywhere, I didn’t bother to call BCAA to get a a boost for a few weeks. But then I needed something from my car and since the battery was dead, I had to use the actual key to unlock the door instead of the fob. But then the key wouldn’t let me lock the door! I mean, it’s in my parkade and I don’t have anything valuable in there and it’s not like anyone could steal the car because the battery is dead. But then I got a reminder in the mail that I need to renew my car insurance. And I remembered that there is a discount if you driver fewer than a certain number of kilometers in a year, so you have to take a picture of your odometer and the insurance broker compares that to your odometer reading from last year to see how many kilometers you have driven. But my odometer is electronic, so without being able to turn on my car, I can’t see my odomter reading! So I called BCAA and got my battery boosted (Fun fact – the battery in a Smart car is underneath the passenger’s feet and is a huge pain in the butt to get to when you need to boost your battery). The guy who fixed it said to run it for 30 mins, which I did, and then to take it for a spin at least once a week. When I tried to start it again the next week for it’s weekly drive, the battery was dead again. So I guess I need to buy a new battery. The car is 11 years old and Google tells me that car batteries last about 3-5 years. I don’t recall ever having bought a new battery, thought it’s possible I bought one at some point during a routine maintenance appointment and I just don’t remember it.


Speaking of things that stopped working: the seal on my dishwasher decided that it didn’t want to seal things anymore. We were super lucky that it only caused a small leak and not a full on flood! After some Googling, we learned that it’s relatively easy to replace, so parts were ordered. They were supposed to be here in 3-5 business days. That was on May 1. I know the postal service is super busy with everyone buying everything online these days, but it’s been 10 business days, and the Canada Post tracking service says they are still “in transit”.

Canada Post time travel
I’m really excited about Canada Post’s new time travel technology. I can’t wait to have received my packaged on May 12!

So we’ve had to wash the dishes by hand like in the Olden Days. (The Olden Days were long before the Before Times, which is what I have taken to calling the time before the pandemic. Given that we were already running the dishwasher way more than usual due to always being at home and my stress reduction baking habit, this is really getting untenable. Hopefully the parts will arrive on Tuesday (curse you, holiday Monday!) and we can get the dishwasher back into action. I think in the not-to-distant future, I should probably just buy a new dishwasher. While looking at the manual to find out the make and model to be able to order parts, I found a receipt from when the former owner of my condo had the computer board in the dishwasher replaced… in 2009. So the thing must be over 10 years old (given that they paid for the replacement, it must have been past its warranty period). And the last thing I want is my dishwasher to have a full on meltdown!


Random thought: people’s Christmas letters are going to be hella boring this year.

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Pandemic Playlist

You know how some songs just resonate with you at a given time based on whatever’s going on in your life? Maybe it’s a song you’ve heard a million times before, but a lyric just jumps out at you in a different way because of where you are at the time you hear it?

Since the pandemic started, I’ve actually gotten (a little bit) back into running. You may recall that after a decade long (very) amateur half marathon running career, I stopped because I sprained my ankle, which led to (excruciating) hip bursitis, and even after my hip got better, I never went back to running because my ankle never fully healed and I’ve been terrified of getting hip bursitis again. Well, not being able to play hockey or go to the gym was making my antsy. I’m doing at home workouts, which are good for me physically, but I don’t think have the same mental health benefits as my usual exercises, especially since I’m doing them in the same place where I now spend my entire workday, my evenings, my weekends…. So I decided to give running a try again. Just to see how my ankle feels. And not super long distances. And really paying attention to my form so I don’t overcompensate and put stress on my hip again. And did I mention not for super long distances?

Anyhoo, getting back into running means I’ve been listening to my Zombie Running app – which is still really great storytelling, but I have to say that listening to a story where you are a character running missions during a zombie apocalypse was maybe not the best choice in the early days of living in a viral apocalypse – and interspersed through the story you listen to music from your playlist. And as I listened to these songs that I used to listen to on the regular, but haven’t listened to in more than three years, more than a few of them jumped out at me with a new resonance. (There have also been a few things I’ve heard listening to the radio or to various Spotify playlists that have had similar effect). And so I give to you, in no particular order, my pandemic playlist (I reserve the right to add to this list later as the pandemic is ongoing).

Evacuate the Dancefloor by Cascada:

Untouched by the Veronicas:

Contagious by Avril Lavinge:

Poison by Groove Coverage1 (particularly the line “your lips are venomous poison”)

Don’t Stand So Close to Me by the Police2:

Break My Heart by Dua Lipa (particularly the line “I should have stayed at home):

Breathing Underwater by Metric (particularly the line “Is this my life?”, which I find myself asking myself a lot these days. But also knowing that COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that, when severe, causes pneumonia, which causes fluid in the lungs making it difficult to breath, well, the title also works).

  1. Yes, I know this song is originally by Alice Cooper. But I have the Groove Coverage cover on my playlist. []
  2. Props to Cath for point this one out []

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Livin’ Covida Loca

It’s been a 5 weeks of working from home for me – I haven’t set foot in my office (or on campus for the one in-person class I was teaching) in all that time. It’s been 5 weeks since I last hung out with a friend in person. It’s been 5 weeks since I last took transit. These things that were just taken for granted as part of everyday life suddenly stopped and we have no idea when we will do them again.

Five weeks that seems like a year. They say time is an illusion – pandemic time, doubly so.

With apologies to Douglas Adams

And just like time seems to run at the speed of molasses, so too does my brain. Case in point: I started writing this blog posting because I had so many things I wanted to say and now that I’m sitting at the keyboard, they have all escaped from my brain.


slowly...

My molasses brain is also why I haven’t blogged in so long. When the pandemic hit I, as usual, had too many things on the go. Full-time job, teaching gigs, course development side projects. I’m extremely lucky that all of these things were things that I can do at home, but my brain seems to function so slowly that everything takes me eleventy billion times as long as it used to. Plus, using remote access to do all my work for my day job is exceedingly slow, which means everything takes even longer to accomplish than it used to . Connecting with my team requires more effort. Teaching that was supposed to be face-to-face had to be switched to online. And in the early days, policies and recommendations and guidelines were being updated so fast, that just keeping up with them required a lot of time and brain space. The onslaught of emails about how everyone was dealing with COVID-19 was overwhelming1. Daily briefings from various levels of government are also a new edition to my life2. And I need to take time for self-care and to connect with loved ones to keep my sanity. All of which translated to me just not being able to get things accomplished in the way I used to be able to.

So for the past month, my weekdays have been working my day job from home, taking a short break (often to go for a walk with Scott when he gets home from work), then work for several hours on some combination of teaching and side projects (with a short break for dinner and to ring cow bells on my balcony at 7 pm to cheer for healthcare workers, and another break around 9 or 10 pm to feed my sourdough starter3 ), eventually heading to bed around midnight or 1 am, when Watson starts loudly meowing at me that it’s time to go to sleep. Weekend days I let myself sleep in and then get up and work on my teaching and side projects for most of the day, usually with a break at some point to go for a walk or a run, or to bake something, or maybe a trip to Costco. So it’s been a lot of sitting at my desk in my home office – side note: I think it’s time I bought myself a proper office chair. The one I have I bought at a garage sale like a decade ago.


There’s been lots written on what one should do while living in quarantine/isolation/lockdown/sheltering-in-place. And I feel like for every thing I read, I then read the complete opposite. “10 Tips for Being Productive While Working from Home” will be followed by “Don’t Expect Yourself to Be Super Productive in the Midst of a Global Crisis!” “It’s Important to Stick to Your Routine” (get up at the same time you used to, get dressed and do your hair, keep the same office hours as before) will be followed by “What Was So Great About Your Old Routine, Anyway? Now Is The Time To Figure Out What You Really Want From Life!”

I’ve thought a lot about my routine. I think it’s important to have a routine, but the more I’ve thought about it, I’ve come to realize that I did not love some aspects of my routine in the old time-y days of the pre-pandemic. I used to get up at about 5:30 am, which gave me enough time to feed the cats/make my coffee/get ready for work and do my ~40 minute commute to start work at 8 am. I liked working from 8 to 4, as I could get home before 5 pm, which gave me lots of time in the evening to do things like go to the gym or do some marking/lecture writing or get to an early hockey game4. But I did not like getting up at 5:30 am. I’m a night owl and find it hard to go to bed before midnight, which meant I typically only got about 5 hours of sleep on weeknights, which is just not enough sleep. If I were to follow the advice of sticking to the same routine as when I went to work, I’d get up at 5:30 am after not getting enough sleep, feed the cats/make the coffee/get ready for work including putting on work clothes and do my hair and makeup, and I’d be able to start work at about 7 am… but why? Why wear work clothes when I can wear a t-shirt and yoga pants? Why do make-up? Why be sleep deprived just to start working at 7 am for no real reason?

So my routine now looks more something like this: sleep until 8 or 8:30 or 9 – whenever I feel like starting to work. Get up and feed the cats/make the coffee (unless it’s a week when Scott has to go into the office, in which case he’ll already have done that). Work in my fuzzy warm bathrobe. Around noon, put on my workout clothes for a virtual 30 minute yoga class run by my friend Cheryl5, then I’d shower and put on clothes (translation: t-shirt and yoga pants). Have some lunch (if I remembered to) while I start my work for the afternoon. And you know what, I like some aspects of this routine. I am actually getting 6-7 hours of sleep a night instead of 5, for example. I like moving my body in the middle of the day, to break up the 8 hours of sitting in a chair. Whenever the world gets back to a place where I can actually go into my office to work, I’ll have to give some thought to what I want my new routine to be.


Image Credits:

Snail photo posted on Flickr by Cinzia A. Rizzo with a Creative Commons license.

  1. It probably doesn’t help that I work for one health organization (but with connections to two other health organizations as well) and three post-secondary institutions and I get updates from all 6 of those organizations, all of whom have a lot of things they need to deal with in relation to the pandemic. []
  2. In truth, I stopped watching the federal ones weeks ago – I just read the highlights later – but I still watch the provincial ones unless I have a meeting scheduled at the same time – and even then I usually watch the video of it afterwards. []
  3. Some evenings I’ve also had a break for Zoom drinks with friends. []
  4. Side note: I miss my gym and hockey a lot. []
  5. The yoga class was a new edition to my life last week. Prior to that, I would typically spend my lunch break going for a socially distanced walk or doing my at-home workout. []