James Follow to Sea

Weekday Schedule During COVID-19

I had meant to write every day, but we see how that went. Instead, here's a general idea of what it's been like around here on week days since California's Stay at Home order went into effect: 

Sometime between 10 AM and Noon: (Most days it's around 11) Wake up. Make breakfast. Walk the dog. Feed the cats. 

Fuzzy space between breakfast and office hour: Maybe watch a Schitt's Creek or a Star Wars: Resistance episode upstairs. Maybe check school email. Maybe stand in the kitchen trying to remember what I came down for. 

1 PM - 2 PM: Office hour on Zoom. (I have had three students show up the whole time. Understandable given my circumstances and what I'm asking them to do, but it's lonely.) In the absence of students, do things like keep checking email, send personalized emails to several students, putter around with Canvas (our LMS), make sure assignments and instructions are set up properly, see who hasn't logged into class for a while and reach out, do record keeping that will make my part of comp program activities easier. 

2 PM - 3 PM: Finish up things started during office hour that need to be done NOW. If none, turn off zoom and check tumblr accounts, or see what Rae is doing. Probably both. 

3 PM - 5 PM: Have lunch some time in here. I've been setting an alarm for 3 so we both remember to eat, but today I ate at 4 because that's when I was hungry. More piddling on the internet.  If there are dishes, get them done.  Walk the dog again. 

5 PM - 7 PM: Anything is possible. Time is a construct. I might read, I might work on a fic, I might scroll endlessly through social media, I might catch up on the latest coronavirus news. I've got a ton of energy and nowhere to put it.  Last night, I went out to the patio and pulled weeds and swept the cement. 

7 PM: Start thinking about dinner. If it's something that requires prep, I've already got the first steps done. (Chicken salted and in fridge, steak marinating, etc).  Look at the recipe and think about when I need to actually start cooking.  If it's not soon, let whatever was happening in previous step run long. 

7:01 PM - 9 PM: Maybe cook dinner. This might also involve putting away dishes because I need space. Try to make sure things come out at the same time. Try not to set anything on fire. (So far, I have destroyed one old pot holder, and that's it.) I'm actually a decent cook, so try to make something I actually want to eat. Read or scroll tumblr during cooking downtime. 

9 PM - 11 PM: Eat dinner. Watch something. Watch something else. Maybe walk the dog for a third time between the somethings, if not let her out on the lawn. Maybe write more, maybe not. 

11 PM - 4 AM: Shower. Get dressed for bed. Start looking at tik tok (Rae got an account). Talk to Rae. Look at more tik toks.  Decide this is a good time for black tea. Make tea. Decide that it's so late we need a snack. Make snack. Watch something while eating snack. More tik tok. Possibly more internet. Realize it's 4 AM and we really should be up by 11. 

James Follow to Sea

Everything keeps happening all the time

 I haven't journaled in a while, but boy have things happened fast. 

Joe Biden is the presidential nominee now.  Bernie Sanders endorsed him.  Neither of them would have been my first choice (I was Team Warren Has a Plan for That), but either of them are preferable to Trump. 

Easter came and went.  I don't really celebrate any more, but we had Irish bangers and mash for dinner that night, and it was delicious. 

Rae and I are getting into a rhythm where we can be in the house 24/7, get our work done, and spend quality time with each other.  She is busy as heck because of the way that her classes are structured and extra responsibilities she took on to help people in her department with transitioning to online portfolios. I try to make sure that we eat normally and that the dishes are clean. 

My lower back hurts. It was worse yesterday, and is a bit better today.  I think it was because of my period.  I'm hoping it goes away at the end of the week. 

And the big not-so-good news is that I found out this morning that one of my fall 2020 courses is getting cut.  The English department had a choice between cutting five classes by getting rid of an entire position (probably someone in the comp department, probably not me) or cutting one class from five people.  I'm grateful I still have the four classes I got, and Mary, the chair of the English department, was so sweet and so good about trying to help me understand the decision making process. She's a good person. There's a possibility that I might get that fifth class back if enrollment is higher than expected, and I'll be one of the first people who gets a canceled course back.  

Still, I hate the uncertainty.  Losing 20% of my units means taking a 20% pay cut, and while I've been told that it's fine for me to seek out an extra class elsewhere, something that my university usually discourages full time lecturers from doing, I don't know if any colleges or universities in my area are even going to be hiring adjuncts. They probably have enough of a time getting classes for the people who are already entitled.  I'm going to put out feelers at the college up the hill and the one where I used to teach that's a bit north of me, though, just in case. 

Even if I don't get another class, we can take the pay cut.  It'll mean making some changes in how I save and spend, but it isn't going to mean we can't pay rent or cover any other essential obligations. We'll be very practiced in not eating out by the time this is all over, so there's one way to save right there. (To imagined future readers: Please hear the sarcasm there.  I did NOT eat out enough to make up for a 20% pay cut. before all of this started.) 

And as if this day couldn't get any more heavy, one of my students just emailed me apologizing for not "keeping up with the work" because her dad tested positive for COVID-19.  I wrote back and tried to be as empathetic and supportive as possible because I know what it's like to have someone I care for sick with this thing. 

OH RIGHT. I forgot to mention it before, but Jess and Amy probably both have it, though they never got bad enough to go to a hospital and so probably won't be tested unless there is wide spread anitbody testing later. It's scary to have friends not be able to come to a Skype chat because TALKING is too tiring. 

And now, I'm going to go bury myself in fandom and tumblr until I need to be a functional adult again. Probably some time around dinner. 
James Follow to Sea

What is a workflow even

Today is Tuesday. Second day of official "online teaching." I've been trying to keep to a schedule of getting up at 10 AM, having breakfast, and taking care of the animals in a leisurely way so that I'm ready to sign on to zoom by 1 for my office hour, which no one came to yesterday or today. 

My composition program agreed to all give the same assignment to replace our big research paper to our classes.  The reasoning behind this was that it would have been impossible for some students to do under the circumstances they find themselves in.  We've got one hard due date the rest of the semester, and that isn't until May.  So, I decided to use my office hour to reach out individually to each student using Canvas messaging.  They all told me what book they're using for the final, so I write to them a little with questions about the book, or what they told me about why they chose it, or SOMETHING that is individual to them.  And then I end with a "please write back if you need help," and so far I've gotten a couple of people replying to that individual attention who I don't think ever would have asked me a very necessary question without the prompting. 

I've got all of my students and their book choices in a spreadsheet, and each day I'm taking out my random number generator and writing to ten students who come up that day. By the middle of next week, I will have gotten to all of them (I have 90 students, and I already wrote to all of the ones who didn't ever reply to my "choose a book" form).  It makes me feel like I'm doing something tangible that I can show anyone who asks why I'm still getting paid (if the weekly pages and videos weren't enough), and I hope it adds to my students' sense that their English professor and their university care about them as individual people. 

Things are pretty much the same in the house.  Rae made the second corned beef we bought and froze before St. Patrick's Day, and it was just as delicious as the first one she made.  Today, I'm attempting chicken soup made with bone broth that is currently under construction in the pressure cooker using the carcass of the chicken I made a few days ago.  So we're still eating quite well and doing our poor Oklahoma Depression-Era grandmothers proud. 

Media update: We watched the new Emma that was supposed to be in theaters. Utterly delightful. I love that they show KNIGHTLEY having an overflow of emotions in a very physical way. There was lots that was good about it.  The Emma was perfect, Bill Nighy as Mr. Woodhouse was... hilarious, Mr. Elton was THE WORST in the best possible way (right up there with Tom Hollander's Mr. Collins), and Harriet was cute as a button. 

Also watched A Letter for the King on Netflix.  Cute. Very watchable. Had pacing problems, but also had VERY pretty horses and a gay kiss. But then they KILLED half of the gay couple. Ending was... anticlimactic and left me with more questions than answers and not just in a "wait for season 2!" kind of way.  Still adorable. 

Finished Dragon Prince Season 3. SO MUCH SCREAMING. I love them all. I especially love Soren. He is Jaime Lannister's Small Dumb Son from Another Universe, so of course he is my child I want to curl up around and hiss protectively. 

Last thing... we are learning how to manage our time, Rae and I, so that we get to spend time together in ways that are quality, and we both know what our expectations of the day are so that there aren't disappointments and misunderstandings.  It's easy for little things to balloon out of proportion and for fears and insecurities that are there in the best of times to rear their heads and cause distress and fights over things that usually wouldn't have even have been an issue.  We're getting better. We're both trying to communicate clearly and be aware of each other's needs.  We love each other, so it mostly works.  We aren't some couples who are already complaining on social media about how much they hate being stuck with each other 24/7, so I feel mildly superior about that.  I suppose we're lucky to have a big enough house that I can be downstairs typing and Rae can be upstairs working on her lesson plan and it's ALMOST like we're alone and out of each other's hair, though we're available for quick consults. (I proofread and check zoom links a lot... Rae looks at the latest fic chapter I've written... things like that.) 
James Follow to Sea

I guess this counts as excitement these days.

 The big news of yesterday is that I am very glad I learned how to salt a whole chicken before broiling it sometime before this happened. Did that last night for the huge bird I got at Stater Bros on Monday.  Also, we talked to Megan, Kelli, and Beth on google hangouts during dinner and then got to see Cai and Amy for a while on Skype after that.  

Also, I finished giving video feedback for the memoir voicethreads my students submitted last Friday. 

Today, I was going to make sure that I had lot of time to get my video for Monday done, but after a couple of leisurely hours of reading The Force Awakens novelization and taking an embarrassing amount of notes on my kindle, we discovered that the one of the screws that holds the hook for the bar in my side of our closet had ripped loose, and the bar was bending in such a way that it was going to rip all of the other screws out, too, if we didn't take care of it soon. This was NOT how I planned to spend my day, and I didn't react super well to it, but we took all of our clothes out of the whole closet, and Rae moved the hook and drilled another hole (the old hole was no longer usable).  

I ended up having to go through all of my clothes, and got rid of a quite a few of them that weren't me any more.  I got rid of a dress I've had since high school that looks like something I probably went to church in it.  It's years out of fashion, but I always held on to it "just in case." I got rid of pants that were too small and tops that were too girly (and tops that were too girly AND too small).  Going through my closet always makes me think about gender and presentation.  I've got much more grey and green and brown and black these days (and always, ALWAYS blue), and less purple and pink and pale, feminine colors, unless they're in button down shirts in Easter Egg colors for teaching in the spring. I vaguely remember being the kind of person who would wear the things I gave away, but when I try to imagine myself putting them on NOW, it feels weird. I'm much more likely to want to go for the classy lady in a suit look than the "bohemian but heavy on the florals" look.   

I went through my bags, too, and threw out a bunch of old con swag bags that were ripped or otherwise unusable, as well as a duffel bag I've had since high school, with the tag from when I went to Austria still on the handle.  The inside was beginning to degrade. It's hard to let go of things that I've had for such a long time, but I'm tired of just looking at them every once in a while when we move or organize and then never using them, and just having them be in the way of things I actually use on a regular basis. 

It wasn't the day I thought I was going to have. We ended up ordering Chinese food (first order of non-home-cooked food since the CA lockdown started...), and all in all it wasn't terrible.  I can always get my video done for Monday tomorrow. 
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James Follow to Sea

First true week of Quarantine Rundown

Today is Friday, and it's the end of the first week that we have all really been in lockdown together. The statewide order went out on the night of the 19th, and all of us in the house, including my sister in law Jacqueline who lives with us, really started doing it in earnest on the 20th.  Rae and I were already doing it as much as possible, but I think the 20th is when Jacqueline really started taking it more seriously.  

We're adjusting.  Rae still has office hours and lots to do on her classes now that they've moved to online, and Jacqueline is taking courses that have moved online, some of which have synchronous lectures, and the most comfortable place for her to be while she watches them is the couch, so for those two hours Rae and I try to be quiet.  (This is more difficult than it seems.  We're not used to keeping our voices down in our own house, but we're trying.) 

I've been trying to make vegetarian food sometimes, because Jacqueline doesn't eat meat, and in quantities that she can have leftovers on nights that I make meat.  I've made some VERY good meat over the past couple of weeks, too.  Rae and I watched this video a while back about various ways to cook a whole chicken, and this somehow got me over a lifelong nervousness about dealing with raw meat.  I've made two (or is it three?) chickens in the past couple of months, and I'm making another one I got at the store on Monday tonight.  We'll save the bones and some of the meat to make broth and soup.  I feel like a pioneer.  Also, I learned that a good way to get crispy skin and seal in flavor is to salt the outside of the chicken ahead of time and then put it in the fridge lightly covered in foil for five or six hours before you cook it.  This lets the chicken dry out and gives the salt time to sink in before cooking. 

We've started trying to find things that all three of us can watch at the same time.  Rae and I are still blazing through Clone Wars and the Tangled series, but last night we started A Letter for the King on Netflix, and it's pretty cool.  High fantasy standard setting, but the kids in the main group all have very distinct personalities and none of them are terrible actors, David Wendham made me sniffle in the second episode, and I'm interested to see where this is going. Ten year old me who wanted high fantasy TV shows around in the same number that there were sci fi shows is VERY HAPPY.  

I'm also trying to get into a workflow rhythm for my classes.  I'm not technically teaching this week, but I want to be in a place where I get up at 10 and putter around for a couple of hours before having office hours from noon to 1 on MTWTh.  We're going to try that out next week.  This should also give me enough time to get up early and go to the store if I decide I want to do that on a weekday.  The last time I did that I was back home by 10:30.  I've heard through the news and, more importantly, community facebook groups, that grocery store supplies are going back to normal with the exception of toilet paper (which we're fine on for at least a week), so I'm not going to go out early again unless I hear there's a need to locally. 

I had the idea this morning of using some of my time I'm going to dedicate to my classes every day to just individually email or Canvas message 10 students with a personalized "how are you doing with the book you chose?" message.  I can keep track of who I contacted and whether or not they responded in the record keeping spreadsheet I've already got going, and it'll be a good way to remind people I exist and this class exists while we're not doing any smaller assignments before the big one. I'm thankful to the "humanizing online learning" advice I got from Rachael, a friend who teaches about the concept to faculty at our university along with doing the same job I'm doing. 

So the theme of this post (and probably a lot of future posts) is going to be, "lots to think about, but not a lot of structure to think about it in."  I'm trying to not just scroll social media mindlessly when I'm not doing something for the house or spending time with family or doing things for school. I'm trying to keep up with this journal, I'm reading a bit (Star Wars TFA novelization right now... taking notes for Reasons), and I got a bit of work done on a fanfic the other night that I've been tinkering with since January.  I did a tarot reading for a friend the other night, and as I write this my piano is sitting to my left looking forlorn.  Maybe I'll take the cover off later and play a little. Maybe I'll end up on tumblr for hours instead. Time will tell. 
James Follow to Sea

Eat your heart out, Ken Burns

Earlier today, I was joking that we should start doing dramatic readings of our journal entries, Ken Burns documentary style. This was funny to me as a person who saw The Civil War all the way through TWICE before I was sixteen, watched all of the Baseball before I cared at all about modern baseball (that has changed... missing my Dodgers this year). I've seen the ones about Jazz and Prohibition too... and The National Parks is on my "to watch list. So, in that spirit, imagine "Ashokan Farewell" playing in the background... I had fun writing this when I got home from the grocery store.


March 23, 2020

With some supplies running low, I ventured out this morning in search of the essentials.  Meat, milk, eggs, vegetables, and s’mores fixings, since we have marshmallows that need to be eaten. 

I arrived at the Stater Bros. parking lot at 7:45 and stood in line with the others who, like me, were risking their health in search of food or, going by some carts I saw, liquor.  (I don’t say this to judge my neighbors.  In our house, we are lucky that our stock of wine, beer, and spirits is set to last us for a while.) The store was allowing elders in first, and I didn’t mind waiting until 8 to be let in.  It was a bright morning, with some dark clouds lingering after the rainstorm last night, and the palest of rainbows hovering over the pizza parlor across the street.  

All was calm in the store.  We are all old hands at this by now, and there were not so many of us as I’ve seen in photographs from other cities, or from Costco (a place I plan to avoid unless there is dire need). If one could ignore the empty shelves where toilet paper should have been, or the thin selection of pasta, or the fact that the frozen potatoes section looked like it have been picked clean by a swarm of locusts, one could almost imagine things were normal. 

I was fortunate enough to find almost all of my hoped for items.  No yellow squash, but that’s not in season, so I’m not surprised. No flour, which worries me more, though we have enough in the pantry to make cornbread several times.  No frozen mashed potatoes, which will force me to make them from scratch when next I make my shepherd’s pie recipe.  It’s a blessing that I’ll have the time. 

I don’t know when I’ll leave the house again. There’s talk of finding a thermometer, as ours is broken, but I doubt there’s a store in fifty miles that has one in stock to sell me. For now, we must be content with what he have.  

It’s getting on to that time when I need to get the soup for dinner into the pot, so I must say farewell for now. As always, I wish for your continued happiness, dear friends, even though we are apart. 

James Follow to Sea

Back from a five year break... it's Corona Quarantine blogging time!

I read an article about how journaling about our experiences during the Corona-induced Quarantine could be a valuable exercise for us and for future people who wonder how things were day to day during this historically interesting period. So here we go. 

Today is March 22nd. It's a Sunday. We've been under a statewide "stay-home" order since Thursday night.  (It's a good thing the old fridge died last Tuesday instead of after the stay-home order.) It's a bit surreal for me, since tomorrow should have been the start of my spring break anyway, but the fear of leaving the house is real.  I have to go out tomorrow to buy food to replace what we lost when the fridge died, and because we're starting to run low of some staples, and I'm more worried than I've ever been about potentially being in the airspace of someone who is asymptomatic but contagious. 

We're usually homebodies around here, so the stay-home order has just intensified that tendency.  Still, we've felt it disrupt our lives in big ways. We had to cancel our trip to Disneyland last Wednesday (it would have been during Rae's spring break). I spent a lot of yesterday (was that yesterday? I think it was...) video chatting with my closest friends when we would usually have just driven over to one of their houses. 

I'm trying not to pressure myself to do too much all at once. I want to read, I want to get some writing done, but not going to push myself yet. This is still new. Today, for example, we moved the TV and the laundry baskets around so Rae could see the screen more easily.  I organized my nightstand.  I hung all of my fancy hats on the wall, which I've been meaning to do since we moved in five years ago. I ran a load of bedding through the wash. I cooked breakfast and dinner and made sure the dishwasher got run.  I watched a class worth of voicethread presentations that my students had been working on before any of this started and figured out how to use Canvas to leave them a video comment so they remember what I look like and I humanize my course a bit now that we're all online until the end of the semester. I walked the dog. I took a shower. We watched the Disney Tangled series and Star Wars Clone Wars. 

Tomorrow, barring another major appliance failure or other emergency, I'll brave the grocery stores, grade a few more presentations, and hopefully get to work on the projects I have gnawing on my brain. 
James Follow to Sea

Books Read: Melusine

Melusine by Sarah Monette

Why I picked it up: I bought the first three books in this series in a used book store while on vacation more than three years ago. They've languished on my shelf ever since, and they are my first books read for project "Read the Books We Have Instead of Buying New Ones." Also, I was in the mood for some gritty fantasy with burglars, big cities, a stratified society, and big magic.

Review in a nutshell: Engaging read with strong characters and a nice portrayal of friendship and loyalty under adverse circumstances. Not perfect in terms of world building, but still good enough that I thoroughly enjoyed it and will most certainly read the other books
Goodreads rating: 3/5

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James Follow to Sea

Books Read: The Ghost Bride

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Why I picked it up:I've never read a fantasy novel set in 1890s Malaysia back when it was still a British colony before. Also, the excerpt I read pulled me in.
Goodreads rating: 4/5 Stars
Review in a nutshell: Really eerie story about the relationships between the living and the dead in a unique setting. Some plot points were a bit thinly developed, but still definitely worth your time if you like history and ghost stories.

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Book and Key

Books Read: Ruin and Rising

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Why I picked it up: I read the first two books in this YA trilogy (Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm) last year, and I liked the world building. The magical system is unique, and there are a lot of really fun secondary characters. I was anxious to see how Bardugo was going to wrap it up. All in all, it was a satisfying conclusion.
Goodreads Star Rating: 4/5

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