Saturday, June 27, 2020

Quarantine, Week 15: Maximum Meetings

Mrs. Spew has taken to ask me when I am zooming so that she doesn't interrupt.  This week was one where the default was: meeting.  It was all good, but it was a very different kind of week.

I met with my co-host Stéfanie von Hlatky to tape our anniversary edition of #Battle Rhythm.  Huzzah!  Part of the joy of the podcast is I get to hang out with her every two weeks.  This was cool before the pandemic and now a key part of my sanity-preservation efforts. the booze this time didn't hurt! I also met with a naval officer to tape a future segment.

I met with a group of mostly Canadian PhD students as part of the ongoing CDSN effort to provide them with some feedback and community.  The idea is that since most lost their ability to present their work and network since conferences and workshops are mostly cancelled, we'd provide an alternative.  So far, it is working out well.  We meet every other week, a couple of students present, we give feedback, I realize that my view of the norms of research and presentations (don't set up your presentation as a mystery--put the bottom line up front) maybe only apply with my very specific discipline in North America and maybe not even that far.

The key source of meetings is the CDSN.  Not only do I meet with our staff every week or two, but I have been re-focused on a central priority thanks to recent events: how to foster a more diverse and inclusive defence and security network.  One of the driving forces for the creation of the network was that at the average defence event in Canada, I was often the youngest person in the room, that the rooms were very male and very white.  When building the CDSN, we focused very much on getting right gender and linguistic diversity--that about half of our leaders are women and about half are Francophone.  I think we did fairly well in organizing events and activities to include people of color (visible minorities is the Canadian term) including the Capstone, the podcast, and our research assistants, but our leadership team is still pretty homogenous along other identities.  So, I spent this week in part meeting with people to figure out how we can do better, and those meetings will continue in the weeks to come.  We are working to partner with American-based organizations whose mandates are to foster better environments for those who are often marginalized since Canada lacks similar organizations except for women with Women in International Security-Canada as a vital and founding CDSN partner.

The COVID Response project led to more meetings.  In April, the CDSN held a brainstorming session to answer questions we solicited from the Department of National Defence, and we produced a briefing note.  Since then, we got some money from Carleton to fund graduate students to research our questions and answers to see if we were on target and to provide more depth.  I have delegated to Alvine Nintai, our sharp PhD student who has been the HQ's main researcher the job of managing the five or so MA students, but we all still need to meet from time to time. 

The best meetings are those where I hang out with pals.  Staying at home has left me mighty thirsty for chatting with friends.  So, a few zooms each week have proven to be some solace for the stress that these days present.  This is definitely the time to reach out.  Thus far, all of the group zooms--for poker, for a wake, for civ-mil twitter folks, for just hanging out--have been welcomed with people asking for the meetups to be repeated.  As a collective action sucker, I don't mind organizing these meetups as, again, I am most thirsty for contact. 
Hanging Out.

What else is doing on?  I finally went to physio for an elbow injured in January or February.  I had just gotten the referral in early March when everything closed.  It looks like it is something like tennis elbow despite my lack of tennis.  Going to pandemic-times physio was strange--answering a battery of questions just to be let in,  much, much, much less going on--only two therapists each handling one client each rather than four or five each handling several with aides connecting the machines and so forth.  I had to buy the little pads that go with the electric stimulation so that I can bring them back each visit rather than the shop washing/re-using.  And, yes, we all wore masks--they made me wear a disposable one rather than my Spidey mask.  Oh well. 

The big international relations issue of the week in Canada is whether the Canadians should end the extradition process for a Chinese corporate executive as China has now made explicit something that was implicit--they would release two Canadians they arrested on trumped up charges.  A bunch of retired politicians, justices, and random academics signed a letter advocating for just this kind of trade.  I am opposed since I think giving in to this bold/bald-faced coercion is not great for Canada now or down the road.  Canada is in a difficult spot since the asymmetry in power and interests so clearly favors China, and the US is not of much help these days. 

Lastly, one observation: I have noticed that I am not moved to tears quite as often as I was a month ago (with the aforementioned wake being an obvious exception).   I am not sure what that means.  I can't imagine that this is true for my friends who have kids at home, who are trying to work and parent and manage all at the same time.  I know I am quite lucky in all of this.  I still feel the stress and sadness and frustration and anger that governments are messing this up (North America is nowhere close to being up to testing/tracing to open stuff up) and that people can't wear masks, stay apart, and, yes, avoid bars and restaurants.  I guess anger is the dominant emotion right now, crowding out the sadness. 

As always, my survival strategy has been the combo of stress-baking, stress-eating, and stress-exercising with the last combined with finishing Clone Wars!  And, yes, I finally made something that looks almost as good as it tasted (usually, what I cook/bake tastes great and looks bad):

Huzzah!  (Yes, blame The Great tv show on Amazon for all my huzzahs!)

Be well, wash your hands, stay at home, and wear a damned mask!

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