Yep, Socially Distancing

Ok, not much interest in a microfic contest here, so I won’t run it. I am, however, running one for real (and already getting a bit swamped with submissions) on my fiction website, so if you want to partake and aren’t already following me on literary Twitter, shoot me an email.

Well, that’s out of the way.

We’re in Week 1 of quarantine here. I did tell my grad students to start working from home a couple of weeks ago, which is one of the ways in which my hypervigilance (often unflatteringly referred to by family and friends as “panicking” and “worrying too much”) paid off. Other ways include having enough food and supplies without having hoarded  like a maniac, just by having started weeks before most , slowly buying a little extra every time I went to the store. No one’s complaining now.

My concern is my eldest son, who remains in his apartment in town. He says he mostly stays put and goes out only to buy food, but I’m worried about the hygiene standards, what he’s eating, and if he’s lonely. He, however, doesn’t believe that he should be entirely quarantined and prevented from seeing his friends, and this continued socializing seems to be something many of his generation insist on. On the one hand, I understand, as I was his age back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. On the other hand, this is not a joke. I wish he’d just come home, at least I’d know what he’s eating and that he has at least us to talk to, but if he did come home, he’d just be in and out the door all the time, putting us all at risk. He’s 20 now, so I guess he does what he wants to… But he’s still my baby!

It’s really hard to be creative these days, be it for work or my extracurricular activities. I try to do at least something productive every day, which usually means reviewing a paper or proposal, tending to my duties as associate editor, revising student drafts. But the motivation is low. There is an ominous air around all we do, mostly because this otherworldly state doesn’t seem like it will end anytime soon. My university canceled in-person instruction through the end of the semester. Public schools will be closed for three weeks, likely more; I am dreading having to homeschool my headstrong soon-to-be teen, considering he’s been battling me to the bitter end over the half hour of math I’ve been making him do at home each day to compensate for the fact that he doesn’t do jack shit in class (this is a whole other rant). Today we had the first videoconference piano lesson for Smurf, my youngest, which was logistically weird (we will need to optimize laptop placement for next time) but the to-be-nine-in-June Smurf handled it with confidence and flair.

OK, so this wasn’t a very academic post, but hey, I’m on sabbatical and in quarantine, the double whammy of non-academy!

How’ve you been doing, blogosphere? I hope you’re healthy. If you’re teaching, has instruction moved online? How are you feeling — physically, mentally? 


  1. I just posted three posts on my blog:

    about how we are coping with the closing of schools and the shelter-in-place restrictions.

    All our wet-lab courses have been cancelled for Spring quarter and I moved my electronics lab to fall (swapping when I have sabbatical). We have at least one faculty member moving in the opposite direction, swapping his current sabbatical for a fall one to teach an online bioinformatics course to replace some of the cancelled courses, so that our students can continue to make progress.

    I hear you about worrying about kids on their own—my son just turned 24, and is also subject to shelter-in-place restrictions in Berkeley. His workplace had already sent almost everyone home to work from home, so the only change is that he won’t be going in once a week to deal with hardware issues. In his case, I’m not worried about him socializing in person—quite the opposite—I’m more worried that he’ll never leave his apartment even to buy food.

  2. I also feel the “ominous air around all we do.” My son is a senior at a Big Ten University, now on virtual learning for the rest of the year. He is a CS major, with a job offer from October already in hand. However, he is now having panic attacks, wondering if the job will still be there in 2 months. He’s home now thankfully, other than a couple of trips back to campus to move out his apartment. I’m glad he won’t be alone.

  3. I am in exactly your position, though my sabbatical was only this semester and not full year. I’m in turns grateful and angry. I’m aiming right now for about three hours of ‘work’ every day (reading productively, writing toward book ms, dealing with admin). It’s okay. I really miss going to the gym. And working at cafes. My dept chair has said we’re not allowed to use our offices…. even that’s sad.

  4. I just read some obnoxious post on Inside Higher Ed about how maybe this pandemic will teach us the virtues of working from home and how productive employees can be when they’re off-campus. It was clearly written by someone who did not have sproglings home with them. My husband and I are currently trying to do two full-time jobs while also providing round-the-clock care for a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old. It’s impossible. At least I’m on sabbatical? (What a waste of a sabbatical!) Even when I do have time for writing papers and proposals, it’s hard to rid myself of the existential angst and motivate myself to actually get it done rather than binging on COVID-19 news. Oh, and the main facility I use for my research just shut down for the indefinite future, so it *really* might not matter what proposals I put in this month.

    That epidemiological paper out of London yesterday was horribly bleak — the current situation is just not sustainable for 6 months or more. I fear that there’s a lot of suffering in our future, no matter what we do.

  5. I am on sabbatical this semester (we only get a semester) and my kids are grown and have been out of the house for about a decade. My husband’s work has closed indefinitely, so he’s home with me and the pups. Things should be fairly normal (we’re well stocked and prepared) but I’m not getting much done either. It has been the overarching anxiety in the air but also the number of family and friends, now home with nothing to do, who have been reaching out. I appreciate it and want to reassure them but my way of coping is to bury myself in writing. My 81 year old mother is living alone in Boston, without a doctor, and sick….so there is that worry.

  6. I don’t understand the don’t go to offices thing. Literally no one except me goes into my office. How is that not social distancing? Its actually better than my house as long as I’m careful about doorknobs etc (which I am)

  7. @jojo, we have the don’t go to the office rule also, though exceptions are made for educators preparing for online course offerings. I think that the idea is to eliminate most movement of people, to reduce the need for contact with gas-station attendants and the like.

    Door knobs and elevator buttons are also seen as high-touch infection spreaders.

    Prohibiting all but essential staff also allows completely shutting down buildings, so that janitors and other maintenance staff can stay at home.

    If I had something I needed at work, I would bike in, but for now, I’m following the stay-at-home-except for essential trips order. I went out twice today: once for grocery shopping, and once for more groceries and picking up carry-out from the nearest restaurant. We’ve decided to up our restaurant meals during the lockdown (only carry-out and delivery allowed), to support the local restaurants that are losing a lot of business.

  8. The post-recovery effects of this virus is not known yet. Preliminary data from HK suggests reduced lung capacity ( which could be relevant to young people as well. There’s been follow-up studies on recovered SARS patients ( showing lung susceptibility to infections, tumors, cardiovascular disorders, and abnormal glucose metabolism and they were in the 47±12 year range.

    We’ll see. I’m supposedly not in the risk group (early 30ies, no health issues) but I’m still a bit worried about getting infected at some point.

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