Aug 21

Set a record for interpersonal interactions this weekend

Saturday we had a video chat with some friends. Two of them were supposed to be getting on a cruise ship for their anniversary, a trip they’d postponed last year, but there was a small snag in their plans. Now they will cruise next week. And that’s just the way of the world now, right? You didn’t get precisely what you wanted when you wanted, but there might be the opportunity to do it literally next week, with a bit less hassle than you’d imagine for that sort of thing, pre-Covid.

This is a part of the business model that I endorse. Maybe this level of customer service and good faith acting is something that consumers will see fit to reward when it comes to the bottom line. It’d be nice if that was a certain kindness that sticks around long after all of this is gone, if all of this ever goes away.

Remember, we used to live in a world where doctors or hair dressers would fire you if you had to cancel too many appointments. That airlines and cruise lines and whomever else are now acknowledging that stuff happens is a good thing. We can assign fault later, assigning fault is easy. Get me on the next trip to enjoy your goods and services and we can each call this a pleasant transaction.

Sunday evening we had a visit with some work friends. It didn’t go quite as we’d planned, but we’ve only been trying to do this since the pandemic began or so, so you roll with it and hope for the best.

So there we were, an advertiser, a comm scholar, a political scientist and us, all trying to be smart and funny at the same time. All thoroughly likable people, all full of giggles. It was a nice visit and we somehow managed to do it just before classes start next week and everything turns upside.

Turning upside down being a question of going from summer mode to the fall plan, and not a cynical Covid distinction. Who knows what that will bear out. Play it smart, hope for the best and thank goodness for the science that brought us masks and vaccines.

Incidentally, that three-point plan is a big part of my fall plan.

Anyway, this was the most people I’ve seen in a two-day span since the spring — and half of these folks were virtual! — we still take our precautions to heart.

But I know you’re really here for the weekly check on the cats. They are doing just fine. Phoebe is enjoying her mornings in the hall, where the sun lights things up nicely for her.

She enjoys being playing coy behind the spindles of the railing.

She also wants you to rub her belly through the spindles. If you’re nearby, that’s what you should be doing.

Poseidon spent the morning in the closet. It’s nice and warm there, too, and it’s a door we try to keep closed, so naturally he has to be in there at every opportunity, working on his Superman pose.

I don’t think we were supposed to see his Superman pose.

Now we’ve embarrassed him. Awkward photos are his kryptonite.

Finally! I’ve found a way to keep that cat in check!

And you? How was your weekend? How are your pets and friends and family?

Oct 20

Human beings! We saw some!

You have to like the colors. The colors are rather glorious in this, our peak time of the leaf turn.

It turns colder tonight, and we’ll have a few cool days. At some point, eventually, it has to rain — there’s a moderate drought on just now — and then the rest of the leaves will fall and it’ll be stigs and twigs and the long, boring sigh of a gray, drab winter.

But those colors are something else today!

We visited with our friends Mike and Kate for a few minutes this evening. I dropped off a bunch of milk jugs that they’ll use to start some container planting project. They’ve got a quiet spread out beyond the suburbs and we stood in their driveway and enjoyed the waning sunlight and the nice warm air and a view of a few acres of trees and their company for a few minutes. Many jokes were made! Some of them at my expense!

Even their neighbor came over to say hello. He said his wife had recently retired from 45 years at the university library. Nice fellow, the neighbor. I see him when I ride through that area on my bike. He’s always outside puttering around with something. That might be the wife’s doing.

After he left we stood around and talked about their upcoming trip to see family. What an exotic adventure they will have this next week. I wonder what that’s like. Going places. Staring at different walls. Hearing different creaks in the floorboards. Pitching in with some little project at their place, rather than your own. Seeing people.

Sometimes it is nice just to see people. Well, some of them. You’d like to see them more. In limited and carefully controlled doses. But, as they say, 2020.

This came up in our visit. Why is this the hip thing to say? Why do people think that January 2021 is going to be any different from Apritoberember 2020? And what do New Year’s Resolutions even mean anymore?

Something to think about, alas.

Here are some shows the news team produced Tuesday evening. New anchor, a first-time interview and other fun stuff:

And here are some programs the sports gang put together, that I forgot to include late last week:

Tomorrow they will produce more sports. I’ll be there. I’ll share them here. Tonight, I don’t have anything else to share, except for the dishes. If you’re interested in helping there, come on over. I’ll be sure to give you plenty of social distancing.

Jul 20

Wednesday, right? Right? Right.

Just two Zoom calls today, which make something like 45 for the week. One was a big meeting where my task is to be a listener, and to make sure my microphone is muted. On the underside of that meeting is a Slack channel subtext, where my duty is to make the occasional bad joke.

I’m the right person for it.

My second call was after lunch, and for the life of me I thought it was set for next week. So calendar reminders saved me today. I’m still holding strong on days of the week, but I have to make direct efforts to keep the proper dates in mind. But the calendar reminded me that today was the day. This is an important tidbit for you to know!

I got to have a chat with an old friend about pedagogy and Zoom sessions, architecture and video. We are so meta! We might also back ourselves into some sort of project together. Who knows? That’d be fun.

He’s returning from sabbatical this term, so welcome back to him.

We went for a bike ride this evening. We went out easy and then I turned it up once.

This happens a lot. I say, I am going to ride in her pocket and not go out and do something silly. It was very humid and we agreed that our goal was to drink all the water on the ride. And then we got to a place where there was one of the sorts of short punchy hills I can get over pretty well and I created a gap. So we go on like that for a while, until she decides to drop me, which she does promptly.

I began ducking into curves and grinding through rollers and eventually I caught her wheel again. She let me pull for a while before coming around the left and settled into a high cadence. She dropped me for real. I was having a good ride, but she was enjoying a better one. Somehow, near the end, she caught me again. She’d taken a detour for fun and still found it in her catch back on as she doubled back. After a gentle two-mile ascent I got her wheel again.

She passed me, one last time, on the final hard 1,200 meters she was

I think she has a motor in her bicycle.

I’m riding in a hard gear and everything!

(That’s not a bad picture for shooting blind and trying to stay upright. But when you crop a tire it looks like a flat, which is a bad omen I’m always hoping to avoid.)

Jun 20

Stand over there, well away, wash your hands, and …

I took the rare trip out today for a few important grocery supplies. I noticed pretty quickly how everyone’s mask estimation game is so popular. I noticed how pretty quickly, and throughout my brief trip, how I keep wondering if people are judging one another.

I wonder who should aggravate me more: the person not wearing a mask, or the person wearing a mask to protect their throat and chin. A lot contender to consider there is the person wearing a mask over their mouth, but not their nose.

The circulatory system, it seems, is a mystery to some fully grown adult human beings who are capable of otherwise sustaining themselves.

Anyway, I needed groceries. I still need a haircut. You need to wear a mask.

Look! It is easy being green.

A friend made this one for me, because she’s awesome. I’d brag on her by name, but she might not want the advertisement. Now I owe her a dinner one of these days when we can safely do those normal sorts of things again.

It’s not the time to let up. It’s the time to reconsider your habits. What we’ve done these past few months, we must continue to do again. And the best way to get back to normal, is to be diligent today. Part of looking out for yourself is looking out for each other. A big part of looking out for each other right now is to take a few simple precautions. Wear your mask.

May 20

Dramatic cat scene ahead

So there I was Tuesday night, washing dishes later than I should have been. Everyone had retired for the evening, but one of the cats came back to see what all this noise in the kitchen was about. As I was scrubbing I didn’t really pay attention to his approach, but he’s got two or three options available to him. However he chose to get there, I looked up, and there was the cat directly above the sink.

Sometimes a light will flash on the ceiling, and that will amuse and astound him, being a cat. Last night, however, I decided to hold the sponge up close to him and squeeze out the water into the sink, so he could see it from above. He’s one of those cats that likes water, so this was a captivating experience. We did this a few times, which lead to a series of photographs.

Why that didn’t wind up in yesterday’s post you’ll just have to solve for yourself.

Tonight we had a dinner and a movie date with colleagues. It was via Zoom. (Zoom has really helped our social lives!) One of them works in our school and the other is in Global and International Studies. We were going to watch a comedy, and instead we just wound up talking for hours and hours.

I was talking when it became obvious that the call was over.

Isn’t that always the way?

People who are still staying indoors — people who have both the ability and desire to do so, that is — are eager for contact. Some of them are talking to me after all. But no one has figured out how to wind down a video call yet. But when those nonverbals kick in … that’s when you can tell.

I wonder if anyone has decided the optimal number for such an interaction. We’ve basically been developing a wholesale interpersonal culture from scratch. Sure, the technology for this has been around, and yes, some people have used it professionally and even some personally, but the wholesale adoption is a different thing. Even if we’re diffusion of innovation laggards — and I’d say we are early or late majority at most — we’ve got to figure this out. Is this a meeting where one person talks to others? Will there be slides and someone droning on and on? Should I mute? Are we using the text chat or not? Do you have to stay backlit the entire time? Are we just being friendly? And isn’t that better than a work video meeting? Are we more, or less, courteous in crosstalk? And why do I keep pointing at things on my screen like I think you can see them?

I haven’t seen any Facebook Portal ads in a while, come to think of it, which is perfectly fine. You’d think they’d be everywhere, having come to market at just the right time. Maybe they are fighting it out over how Facebooky they have to be right now, who knows.

If they promised me only the Muppets could call me, and that the Muppets would answer when I called them, I’d buy one.