Jul 20

Masks can be art, too

We went out for an errand today. We, being the responsible sort, wore masks.

It’s odd, somehow, that we’re the responsible ones. We went out to get gas for the cars. More so because we had to use some fuel points before they expire at the end of the month than needing fuel. We missed the expiration of fuel points last month. And the month before that we got fuel because it was cheap, and we had a big discount and not-at-all empty tanks.

We’re staying at home. (I mean, just look at that hair.) We’re wearing masks. I hope you are too. Keep yourself safe. And, do it for others.

Also, these masks — highlighting the mascot, Gritty, and the band, Guster — were presents from The Yankee’s god-sister, who is very kind and works with this stuff in a university laboratory. So she wants you to wear a mask, too.

I had this setup in place today:

And if the many pieces of foam are up that can only mean one thing in my tiny home-office. It’s time to record something.

This gentleman is the director of the Eskenazi Museum here on the IU campus. They have 45,000 objects, with about 1,400 on display. Wikipedia tells me the collection ranges from Picasso to Pollock. There’s ancient jewelry and artifacts from all over the world. Coming up, when they reopen in the next few weeks, will be a wide array of exhibits. But, here, we talked about how museums, in general, are doing without foot traffic.

It’s a great museum, even if he wasn’t ready, today, to say when they are re-opening. That news, he said, is coming next week. I’m guessing late August, early September.

And you’ll need to wear a mask.

Jul 20

Posts this good don’t need titles

And now, two pictures of the same thing. This is in our foyer. And the sky and clouds were nice.

A bit later, I decided to take a photo of the wall, because sometimes you just have to blow out the sky and show off the color of walls that you inherited with the house.

One day we’re going to get that painted. It’ll be a professionally done job. First we have to settle on a color.

I got to talk political campaigns with a guy who studies politics today, so it was a good day. We were racing against the clock, trying to get this recorded before his kids found him and demanded he did Dad things for them.

He thinks schools are going to be a huge campaign issue this fall, which is probably true. I especially found that interesting considering the vote will be in November. He’s also talking about where the campaign donations are coming from, and the mail-in process.

We never did hear from his children. I was hoping this would be the episode that it finally happened. I always tell people on this program we’re just trying to get out the expertise, but I would absolutely highlight that sort of interruption. It’d be charming and real. No one has tried that yet, have they?

Jul 20

A little weekend listen

Ahhh, the weekend. You’re upon us once again and you feel exactly like last weekend, which is also to say you feel exactly like Monday through Friday.

Normally there are the rituals of your week which help delineate your work week from your time off. Mine have now been reduced to … turning off Slack, closing the browser tab containing the work email and walking downstairs. Most importantly, for two wonderful days, I’ll have one less tab open.

So what’s up for your weekend? I’ll go on a bike ride and have Chick-fil-A — curbside takeout, of course. I still don’t think the local store is offering dine-in services, which is more than fine. I’ll spend some time reading and re-reading the county’s mask mandate. There are 12 bullet points worth of exceptions to the mask mandate and it’s a four page document, which is a lot of words to say “Wear a mask.” Also we’ll largely be staying inside since the heat index will be reaching the triple-digits for both Saturday and Sunday. So, yeah, the weekend will be spent trying to find ways to make this weekend unique from the last few, which I’ve basically described, in toto, in this paragraph.

Today, though, well, today was nice enough. I got to meet a professor who had just turned in her tenure packet. It was almost time to celebrate. But first she had to record an interview with me.

We talked about not-for-profits and what’s going on in that sector of the economy when the economy is in the shape it is currently in. It turns out, quite a bit is going on. You should give it a listen. It’s a fun and informative little program. And quite helpful if you’re looking for a new volunteer project.

What are you looking for this weekend?

Jul 20

One over-long note on the interview process

I received an email a few weeks ago about a scientist doing a massive study on distance learning. I emailed the guy and said, I’d like to talk with you about this when the study gets to an appropriate point. And so we set a date when he was ready to talk about his findings.

That was today. And my first question was, how do you clear IRB, coordinate research from something like half a dozen universities in multiple states and get several co-authors to all pull their weight between when you started this in April and today?

Actually, my first question was, “What’s the difference between distance learning and distance education?” This was a pleasant surprise for him, and you could here it, because he realized this person might be willing to listen to the details. There are a handful of ways to get on the right side of the conversation. One of the easiest is to show you’re going to let the person do their thing. If you demonstrate to a scientist that you’re going to let him roam through nuanced terminology that is still a minor debate among his colleagues, he knows what you’re there for.

It’s sometimes helpful in getting the good answers.

I was talking with The Yankee about this still in-progress study before I talked to the lead author and she says “What’s his question?” This is a basic way to deconstruct a study, but this particular study doesn’t have an overarching question as yet, because this is all brand new. We’re in this forced march to distance instruction — and we’re going to do it again this fall, you wait and see! — and this is a first-time exposure. The question a study like this is going to try to answer is “What are the questions?”

So I tried to explain the study to my wife, from memory, while away from the study, and while we were riding bicycles. I failed at this explanation because she finally said “I still don’t know what his question is.” Which was when I suggested she stop being a grad school professor for a second.

What’s interesting about this interview, to me, though, is that I started thinking up questions with no idea what the answers might be, still-brand-new study and all. Some Thursdays, you work without a net.

Jul 20

Where will children learn this year?

There’s a now sort-of famous poll, I guess, from May (remember May?) that said 30 percent of parents are “very likely” to try homeschooling in the fall. Even more said they were considering it. And a lot of teachers are considering not returning to the classroom this year. Educators are trying to figure all of this out, and there are, as you might imagine a lot of moving parts involved in turned the routine into the crisis-driven responsive.

So we are talking homeschooling here with professor Robert Kunzman, a man who knows all about the research involved.

The rules vary from state-to-state and, in most, they are shockingly light.

That’s the third education podcast I’ve done on this program. I never worked an education beat. Politics and courts and hard news, sure, but never education. I’m not sure if this qualifies me for the job.

Anyway, education is going to be tricky this year. In Indiana the state department of education said “The local school corporations will figure it out.” While it probably seems like passing the buck, that does allow for different circumstances over vast geographical areas. And left local superintendents and county health officers to make the call.

It seems like most, here in this immediate area, will be doing some sort of hybrid program. Some days in school, some days out of school. I haven’t seen the particulars so I shouldn’t question the efficacy or the thought process behind it. It is, we can all agree, less than ideal, everywhere.

As I write this I just saw that in Dallas, Texas, some 153,000 students are now looking at a September start date. Kicking the can, says the superintendent there, was the backup plan. But as you get closer to launch dates, backups become realities.

And, in something that really matters to casual audiences, college football is facing similar problems. Today you saw the beginning of the end of the 2020 football season. The Big Ten dumped their non-conference schedule. It’s a nod to more flexibility for the games that matter, a teaser of even-more-cash-strapped-smaller-programs or court, or both. And it feels like frustra sperans that we’ll even get that far.

The smaller Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, representing 14 schools across six states, is cutting out the middleman, hope, and has canceled their fall athletic seasons. Sometimes the right decisions are the most difficult ones.

And in New Mexico the governing high school body has today canceled football and soccer for this fall.

More will follow, near and far.

The second half of this week already reminds me of the second half of that March week when they shut down the basketball tournaments. That was on a Thursday, too.

Solution: Eliminate Thursdays. Let us go directly to Fridays!

But not yet. First I get to Zoom with some of my students. You don’t pass up those rare summer visits.