Saturday, April 25, 2020

Quarantine, Week 6: End of the Beginning?

Something about it being a month and a half seems striking.  Are we past the beginning?  Sure, a variety of places around the world have started to open up, although the experiences of Singapore and China suggest that second waves are inevitable.  Indeed, a story I saw this morning suggested that the lessons of the Spanish Flu of 1918 are complicated--that places that acted earlier, such as St. Louis, had less of a big spike, than those that acted later, such as Philadelphia, but the early actors got hit harder later.  We see mixed news about immunity--can you get COVID-19 a second time?  We don't really know much.

Well, except this:
Yeah, don't drink bleach or inject lysol.

I found this week striking for how normal some of the abnormalcy has become.  On Friday, my department, the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, had its first meeting (we call them boards for some reason) since the pandemic struck.  So, most of us showed up via zoom (I am sure the Chinese will dissect this meeting to assess Canadian weaknesses--insert your favorite ones here).  And the meeting was fairly normal.  The usual suspects were distracted by their other devices (ok, me).  The conversations were entirely the same about how much flexibility we had to change procedures given the collective agreement (no, I am still not a fan of unionized faculties) and so on.  It was good to see my colleagues and fun to see what their homes looked like.  Or at least the background of their chosen zoom room.  I doubt the outcomes of the meeting would have been any different if we had met in person.  There just would have been more post-meeting kibbitzing about what had happened and what had not happened. 

We also had a couple of job talks given by zoom.  The candidates did great, given the circumstances.  Again, a bit of normalcy.  We are continuing to hire, which is amazing given the likely budget cuts in the near future.  How is Ontario going to pay for all of the spending during the height of the crisis?  I am hoping that the federal government here, like I wish the US government would do, is going to take on all of the debts of the federal units.  But Doug Ford, who has done very well in this crisis, will revert, almost assuredly, to being hostile to higher ed.  I just don't see good times ahead for universities and colleges on either side of the border.  My guess is that it will be worse in the US.  One thing that we are all realizing--getting addicted on international students who pay higher tuition was dangerous, and the pandemic will cause folks to feel the pain of that faster than mere Trumpian xenophobia would have. 

Grading and student meetings continue, although the former is slower and the latter is far less spontaneous.  I should be getting more done--I have no small kids at home--but whatever adult attention deficit disorder I have developed over time (thanks internet!) is amped up.  I try not to make myself feel guilty about not being as productive as I should, and I have smart former students explaining why we shouldn't, but guilt, like rejection, is an inherent part of the academic enterprise.

The CDSN will be having a major event next week so the planning for that has been keeping me and my staff busy.  The basic idea is that we are bringing together the community of defence and security scholars (our network, those in other networks) to brainstorm ideas for how Canada should be responding to the crisis and what the implications of COVID are for Canada's armed forces.  I will be blogging the results next week.  So, more normalcy among the abnormalcy--how do we do network activities when we can't travel? 

I wouldn't actually be traveling that much right now.  Usually, I spend much of April, May, and June traveling to do fieldwork.  But I did all of my research trips for the Steve/Dave/Phil project, although they each had one last trip to make.  The plan always was to spend this spring and summer turning the series of case studies into a coherent manuscript.  Well, after grading season.  We shall see how much progress we make, given that Phil has two small kids at home, and Dave has two caged dancers (college and post-college daughters) at home.  The mere fact that I am thinking a bit about how much progress we will make is a sign of normalcy.  But the reality that none of us can focus is not so normal. 

The American* Saideman scorecard for COVID remains pretty good--two nieces have had it, both had mild cases.  My cousin's kid may have had it, and she's fine.  My second cousin's husband died from it, but that is as close as it has gotten so far.  My mother has not left her condo in about six weeks.  My mother-in-law has been having health issues, but COVID is not one of them.  I hope you and yours have been as lucky as we have been.

*  During this pandemic, we discovered Saidemans in the UK who are probably unrelated thanks to twitter. They seem to have been hit harder. 

As usual, I rely on memes and such to distract, amuse, and annoy:

I forget where I got the one on the right--just a great call back to the last time the US faced such a threat and highlighting who are the folks in harm's way now.  The one on the left is from the Star Wars graphics designers doing a bunch of great posters and pics.

There is no one right way to get through this.  I am treadmilling more while watching Clone Wars, and I am baking more, finally having today the third of the holy trinity of breakfast foods--pancakes after making waffles last week and French toast in the days before I found reservs of flour.  This weekend, I will make chocolate chip cookies because ... why the hell not.  And when I make them, I can eat them hot.  When Mrs. Spew makes them, well, she protects them from me until they get cold.
Anyhow, one day at a time, one week at a time, patience (which is what I usually lack in a big, big way) is what will get us through this.  Have as normal a week as you can in these abnormal times!

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