The sun is shining outside and although I really am not much of a fan of U2 at all, the Unforgettable Fire is on in the background. It is one of the best tracks any Irish band have done, although that’s because I think it’s a beautifully layered piece of work.
So, this morning I discovered the supermarket would open half an hour later than it used to on a Sunday morning, the hard way, by being there at the time it used to open. The one growth job lately is crowd management security in supermarkets. They have several in my supermarket, one for access to the place at all and then, someone keeps an eye on the lottery machine and the queue for the tobacco stand. The bakery is still closed but you can get most of what they have on the inside. It did not take long at all for the stocks of baguettes to go down. And the toilet paper was all gone again. I’m kind of glad I got some on Wednesday during my previous ninja raid. The food side of things was more normal; still out of a lot of cured meats, but better on the vegetable side this time. For a Sunday morning, it wasn’t bad at all. I really only went because I needed milk but I sorted out stuff so that I wouldn’t have to go again until I got to Wednesday. It’s extraordinary how we are adapting to these forced changes.
A few years ago, the Green Party in Ireland were talking about banning freezers. I thought of them this morning. I live without a freezer; I have a fridge and an ice box, and that’s it.
I’m not in the business of hoarding, but until last week, I did not cook that often. Now I don’t have a choice because canteens, sandwich bars and restaurants, they are all closed. I live on my own and I made certain decisions around the whole lifestyle thing, things like not owning a car, reducing my electricity consumption; public transport being the way to go, and reducing waste. I wasn’t doing that great on the plastic bottle and can front plus I had residual guilt about coffee capsules. The whole self-isolation/lockdown process has made a complete mess of this. Some of the food which previously came in paper bags is now coming in single use plastic. Because I’m working from home, my electricity usage is going through the roof. And because I live on my own, I have to manage the whole food thing alone while trying desperately not to waste food or water. This is hard when you’re not spreading the environmental cost across a bunch of people. Trying not to hoard. Trying to arrange things so you don’t have to go to the shops too often, and trying to live healthily in what are unhealthy conditions.
Here is where a freezer would actually help. Things can be frozen. Vegetables can be frozen. Our supply chains, toilet paper aside, are generally fine at the moment. I hope that continues; I hope the supermarkets continue to stay open. A freezer would also help reduce food wastage and it would allow someone like to me to cook for 4 people and freeze for 3 and not need to go to the supermarket quite so often.
I have personal considerations about housemoving sometime in the next 6-9 months if life gets back to some sort of normal so I’m reluctant to do stuff like buy a freezer – another reaction to Covid-19 dancing around the population – right now. But I think used correctly, a freezer is borderline essential for managing certain environmental concerns and I note that a lot of the energy wastage in the world at the moment is bitcoin mining related, and for this reason, I think the Green Party probably was wrong to suggest that freezers be banned.
No one agreed with them anyway.
One of the things that is frustrating about social media in a time of, well anything really, is how polarised people get. Leo Varadkar received a video message via twitter yesterday from a child who was asking about risks relating to the tooth fairy. I’m interested to see that his response was measured, and age appropriate for the child, and also factored in some of what the world needs – ie, that we are searching for a vaccine.
The thing is, there are a lot of people who don’t like Leo Varadkar because he is Fine Gael, he is not their tribe. Instead of seeing the humanity of that answer, there are cynical whatabouteries. I’ve never been a great fan of his party’s general right leaning towards the interests of the well off but I think at some point, we’re in the middle of the emergency; he may not be the leader you want, but he’s the leader you have, and compared to other leaders you could name, the parties in Ireland are shutting up about most of the party political nitpicking and dealing with the emergency. I mean, I am as cynical as the the next person, but sometimes, it is just not appropriate. He’s doing pretty much okay. And while you may complain about the lack of testing; you also need to bear in mind that in general, Ireland is doing better on testing than a lot of other countries, including that one where the leader refused to accept this was a serious problem until sometime lately.
And you see this played out across a lot of debates on the social media platforms. It’s not what someone does that matters, but what tribe they belong to. The world is no longer quite that simple.
For myself, yesterday I packed up all the work related electronics – I need to unpack it again shortly to photograph some screen messages – and cleared my desk so that I could make a mess of it using sewing stuff. I’ve been fascinated on pinterest by sewing machine covers. There are some stunning ones and I’ve a bundle of fat quarters here to make one for myself. As a training run though, I decided to have a go at making a tea cosy. I actually went out and bought the supplies (so more fat quarters of fabric and a pile of cotton batting, also needed for the sewing machine cover) a couple of weeks ago so I was good to go, whenever I could find the time. As I wasn’t out browsing the stationery shops, swank tea shops, the craft shop, or having coffee or lunch somewhere nice, I took the time to do it yesterday. It’s not perfect but:Treasa’s Caravan Teacosy
This is for my parents. It’s supposed to be a caravan. The colours were chosen so that they would not get too dirty, too quickly. As always, there are good things and bad things. The door is done really nicely; the window less so. I like the colours and I’m reasonably pleased with how the bottom band fitted around the edge. Do not look at the stitching there though; it’s desperate. But a) I did better top stitching for the most part, and I learned how to do new stuff. Still afraid to try and make my own clothes. This will go to Ireland as soon as I can go with it. In the background you can see my new Samsung screen, one of my many. many pairs of scissors and a bit of my sewing machine. And I have lots of scraps left for my scraps quilt project. All told, start to finish, it took 3.5 hours. I believe this counts as “very bloody slow, how useless are you” in quilting terms.
I had notions of doing a sewing machine cover in the shape of a VW campervan (there are a few on pinterest) but I have something similar in mind. I still have a bunch of bags to finish out too, so not short of stuff to do.
If I am honest, being told to stay at home isn’t a big deal for me. I am generally somewhat solitary but use modern tools to maintain contact with the outside world. The part I struggle with, and what I find incredibly hard is the lack of distance between work and home life. If I always worked from home and had configured a home office to do that, maybe it would be easier. But work has taken over that corner of my living room that is my creative space; where I sew, where I paint, where I write and it feels all wrong. One of the reasons I find it hard as well is not just this encroachment on my life – it’s the straight up collision between finding this hard and knowing that I am lucky. I think I saw a report the other day that said 14,000 people had lost their jobs in Luxembourg when the hospitality sector was shut down last week. We deal with the immediate needs; I think when all this is over, people can go out and live differently again, we will still have problems as people adjust to this sudden huge change and back. I do a lot to try and manage the mental health side of things as well. It’s okay not to feel okay. It’s okay to be angry. Just don’t trash the place in frustration. I think that even when people are no longer dying in huge numbers daily, we will still have trauma to deal with as people come to terms with one giant “WTF was that that just happened to the world?”
All of a sudden in the past 10 days 100’s of thousands of people lost their jobs. That’s people with mortgages, rent, children, responsibilities, and in a literal night and day shift they go from having money to pay for all these things to not.
That movement from having a job to having none was brutal and life changing and terrifying. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. There’s a gut wrenching worry and the unrelenting terror that keeps you awake at night and makes you think of nothing else. Then you see people outside going about their regular business and you feel like shouting at them because they shouldn’t be when your entire world is falling apart.
It’s looking likely that my husband will also lose his job in the next week or so and I find that familiar anxiety rising in me. This time though I have the benefit of having been through extreme financial difficulty before and I know how to manage.Step One: Prioritise
The most important thing right now is to try and stay well and socially distanced (and wash your hands). You do this by figuring out what is important and MUST be paid for as opposed to should be paid for.
What are at the top of the list? Simply food, light, and heat. You need all these three to stay well. If you have a mortgage or rent there are systems set in place now to ask for a break from the banks etc. Use these if you have to. There is no shame in doing this.Step Two: Solidarity
We are not in this on our own. During the recession everybody was treated individually and at times when it was difficult I found that I felt we were being picked on by the bank. The difference now is that people have been laid off all at once. So you have others to speak to that are in the same situation; reach out, text your coworkers and friends, us social media. Don’t feel on your own. This will help.Step Three: Focus On What You Can Control
The Covid-19 crisis, not having a job, being cooped up in the house? All of these you can’t control.
You can control the small things. You can make a cup of tea, sort out the bottom of the fridge for once, organise the laundry, hug your kids. These things you can focus on. If you focus on the small stuff and allow the bigger things to take care of themselves you will begin to feel better.Step Four: Reduce and ReUse
Take a look at your finances, figure out what you can let go. Ring your service providers and negotiate a reduced repayment arrangement. Cut out those crappy monthly subscriptions that you don’t need anymore.
Get a large sheet of paper, write down all the food you have in the house. See how many meals you can get out of that. Plan your meals. Wash your hands.Step Five: Endure
Know that you are not on your own. You will get through this.
Decide something nice that you will do when you get through the other side. You will get through the other side. It could be a trip to the hairdressers or a pint in the local pub. Whatever. Promise yourself you will do that and work towards it.
I’m just working towards the day we have free hugs for everyone!
Seriously though this is so blooming difficult and I wish we didn’t have to go down this road again. I’m grateful that I have the skills to survive though.
We will endure.
Clearly this idea that I might write daily is not helping a lot. But I want to mention two blogging pals that go back a long time who have picked up that I am writing again, so hello to Donncha and Mark. Maybe RSS’s time is coming back.
Anyway, the unbelievable stuff out of the way first: yesterday it as 16 degrees, this morning it snowed. It hasn’t stuck but still, seems crazy. I spent this morning trying and failing to figure out why the network adapter on my work computer is not working, it is not working, it is not working, it is not working. Small things like that are usually small, and annoying. Currently I have no idea how long it will take to get it fixed given the current circumstances.
The Current Circumstances. Where everyone who can is working from home, and getting anything fixed at all is a challenge that just didn’t exist 3 weeks ago. I need to replace the fluorescent bulb in my bathroom but not sure anywhere left open that sells them. I have not yet succumbed to Showers By Candle Light but if the lights in the hall go, at least the supermarket is still selling them.
Facebook and Twitter are full of “how to telework” type links and advice about “you’ve got the time, here are 10,000 worthy things you can do”. Another link to a “learn how to code website” and I will go crazy. I am very definitely privileged; in theory, network adapter issues aside, I can work and I have my job. But what I don’t have, just because I am staying at home. is 8 extra hours a day to practice the piano. sew, learn to code, read all of wikipedia and virtually visit 50 museums. I do still have to work, and this issue of having to cook for myself has led to interesting things like generating more waste, using more electricity and having to spend more time washing ware. It’s not a life of leisure that I can fill up with cleaning all the things I never had time to clean. I cannot imagine how people who have children are coping, not least with the constant dumping of resources in their direction to help with the home schooling that every parent in the world suddenly has to try and manage with the grand total of no preparation at a time when they are either a) teleworking themselves or b) worrying about their economic health because they have lost their jobs or their business has shut down.
The pressure to be perfect in a time of crisis is fairly high. We really need to be kinder to ourselves, stop work on time, for example and put effective separation between home life and worklife in place, and remind ourselves that there is no need for forgiveness for the sins we did not commit. We’re all trying to do the best we can.
Apart from the ones who stockpiled toilet paper last week. They probably are trying to do the best they can, to the detriment of the rest of us.
I find myself dancing a lot in the kitchen lately; not sure why. Maybe it’s because my horizon has limited itself so much; to the four walls of my apartment and, the supermarket, of course. Maybe it’s just coincidence that there happens to be danceable music there at the time. But I think it’s a good thing; not to be constantly weighed down by the reality of one key question. How long will this go on? I don’t know and I don’t know that anyone does. How long is a piece of string. I mean, we cannot go on like this forever. The thing is, for some people, it will be forever, the ones who don’t make it through. The photographs out of Italy continue to hurt; the coffins in a morgue somewhere in Bergamo cut very sharply this morning.
Today is a Saturday; normally I would be sitting in Oberweis or Exki having lunch, having just spent money on books and fabric. Those books and fabric will stand to me in the next few months, probably. Even when the extreme restrictions are lifted, I think we will initially still be staying home more than we used to. For a while, anyway.
I have a friend who wondered if this would herald a slowing down of society. He saw this as a good thing and I see his point. The story of many people’s lives lately have been optimisation, productivity. Get as much done as you can. We could slow down and it would even be good for society. But we’ve also learned the price of not being able to do much of anything as well and things may go the other way. We will reach out to hold life more tightly, experience life more fully, explore and push our horizons further.
But it’s not clear what sort of world will wait for us on the other side. Whether there will be any businesses left to sell us clothes, any trains or aeroplanes to take us places. Every experience changes us; and mass experiences have a profound impact on societies. We’re so much more interconnected too; we know that other people have different experiences, and will respond differently to their local conditions. It’s been interesting to see the comparison of different leader styles in terms of dealing with the crisis of a virus spreading rapidly across the world.
For a long time, history of the world was the political history of the world. Who conquered who when and where. It was typically written by the victors. I’ve never been so interested in that side of history although I read quite a bit of it. I’m more interested in how people lived, what their experiences were. It’s one of the reasons why small local museums tend to be fascinating, and why the digitisation of old newsreel and film is fascinating me. I wonder how differently we are reacting to people who experienced previous pandemics. I suspect, in certain respects, not so differently.
I’m also interested in how people coped with the aftermath. When the threat is gone, our lives have changed and we don’t go back to what used to be normal. I’ve been fortunate, I guess, to live in an era where broadly, for people at least, things have been stable. Not all Europeans can say that – there have been civil wars and wars of independence within living memory, along with significant political systemic change. My parents used to talk about the day John F Kennedy was shot being a time locator; one of those events that were a before/after event in your life. For the last 18 years, I assumed that indicator for my generation would be 9/11. I don’t think that’s true any more. It will be before the virus, and after the virus.
I'VE STARTED USING my laptop and Note 9 screens to stay in touch with people through Zoom. I feel I'm getting closer to people by having meaningful conversations and then documenting the process through open education initiatives.
You can spot the yellow COVID-19 signage all around South Tipperary where I live. I hear senior managers and responsible officials outline how to enact social distancing and I'm trying to figure out how to port 20 hours of cancelled lab sessions in to online meet-ups.
I don't think I can convert to an online platform the syllabus-directed 24 hours of lectures and 48 hours of structured online discussion during the next two weeks. I lack some technical components because I loaned my best audio equipment to a student who needs it to complete his final year project and I don't have a green screen at home. I cannot sneak into the Clonmel Digital Campus to use idle equipment there because I have no child care provision for my two primary school children.
Instead, I'm staying sane by assuming I am contagious as I sanitise my hands at least six times daily, remain at least two metres away from people, and consider that anything I touch might infect me.
Since I cannot complete all the syllabus-directed hands-on tasks with students in person, I have reiterated the tasks my students have to finish by specifying them as checklist items on both Moodle and Microsoft Class Notebooks. Following department guidance, I deleted or revised up to one third of the final assessments because I cannot work monitor required tasks over the shoulder of students.
I plan to ask students for weekly responses through a free Socrative account  I've used for the past four years. I am using a paid Zoom account for both one-on-one review sessions and for one-to-many doc-in-the-box lectures.  My students can book private video sessions with me by using Calendly. 
I hope I'm able to save our Zoom Conferences in a time capsule so that educators a century from now can see how we worked through a global pandemic. I think some of my work during these challenging times would interest readers of the CESI-List in Ireland. It's handy to see how Zoom lets me save my conference sessions in the cloud and then allows me to download them for content that I can push out as Moodle RSS feeds.Listen to "Behind Screens Of Social Isolation E492" on Spreaker.
Students know they can book a half hour session with me via https://calendly.com/topgold/clonmel if they want up to 30 minutes of one-on-one time inside Zoom. When they do that, a short description of the student contact is recorded by Contactually. 
- https://b.socrative.com/student/login and realise I need to restart my monthly payment so I can run several rooms simultaneously.
- My Zoom Room is open at set times for one-to-many and at specific times for one-on-one by student request.
- Calendly links directly to my Google Calendar and I like that convenience.
- Contactually pulls information from my Google Calendar, my Gmail account, and from SMS sessions on my Samsung Note 9.
- I'm topgold on LinkedIn. I plan to share these ideas with several Open Educators who use LinkedIn.
[Bernie Goldbach teaches creative media for business on the Clonmel Digital Campus for the Limerick Institute of Technology. The top image was screencapped during a Zoom session across seven time zones.]
I missed yesterday. In fact, I was lazy having done broadband battle and really, I had just Had Enough. But I now have a decent data cap on my broadband which should hopefully support the whole homeworking lark. I just had to queue for half an hour to get into one of the shopping centres to go to one of the three Orange phone shops left open in Luxembourg. The country, not the city. We are truly living in weird times and now my laptop refuses to play audio. This is a pity because I’m inclined to play more stuff from youtube courtesy of more data.
Anyway, today, apparently, was Thursday. I have to confess that it’s only taken this many days for me to realise the days of the week almost have no meaning for me at all. At some point, I suppose, it will be Saturday but I may have to get up anyway because I am managing the whole grocery shopping thing. I went at 7.10 this morning. Mistake. I need to go at 7.05 to try and avoid the queue. There were already ten people ahead of me so I had to wait. But it wasn’t for long. You fly through the shopping when the place is empty and there are no queues at the cash desk.
Then you find out the bread is no longer at the bakery, but somewhere inside the grocery store so off you go in again, this time looking for bread. There’s an added dollop of feeling stupid. Of course they are limiting queuing at the bakery by simply closing it.
Today has been an odd day for many reasons but not least the fact that as of Monday, there will be no passenger flights in and out of Luxembourg; and also, the TGV link to Paris is being canceled. CFL’s train service is being drastically cut back as well. People just aren’t moving all that much. The city bus service will be down to a Sunday service if they chop it much more. There are a few cars, but still not that many. Today, more people were out walking. It’s as if they realised, we need to do this while we can; before they tell us we cannot leave at all.
Today it was the smell of daffodils I noticed. The weather has been beautiful; gorgeous sunny during the day. I hung out washing at some point. I’d love to say it’s the first sign of summer except I looked at the five day weather forecast and it’s going to start freezing again. Properly. Like, minus five level of freezing. Of course that is five days away and we might be lucky. It might be so cold. But the queuing, if it is, will be hard.
I’m finding teleworking hard. I’m not sure I am temperamentally suited to it and I really don’t like the isolation. I feel sorry for the cash assistants; they’ll be the only people that people like me even see on a regular basis. They’ll be engaged in so much chat at a time when they just want people to move on, at least 2 metres away please.
There was one beautiful shine on the day. Jennifer Ehle, a British actress best known for playing Elizabeth Bennett in a 1995 BBC television series, started reading Pride and Prejudice live on her instagram account today. It truly was a thing of beauty.
The thing about knowing you’d be cancelling a trip back to Ireland is the minor detail of the tea. The amount of tea in the teabox started deteriorating awfully quickly when I a) started teleworking and b) stopped drinking Coke Zero and coffee. It was already looking tight that I’d make it to the trip home to April anyway, but when April was swimming in a sea of cancellations and lockdown risks, it became necessary to act quickly. So 160 teabags were ordered and this morning arrived in between two conference calls. How beautiful. I don’t need to panic again now until I’ve drunk at least 100 cups of tea. That gives me time to order some more and not quite run out.
Anyway, day 2 teleworking was half and half; the morning spent at home, the afternoon back to the office for what may the last time for some time. All the conference calls were this morning which was badly planned on my part; I have a data cap. The plus side is that it was nice to be back in the office. Bigger desk. Two screens. Proper keyboard. Very quiet which is usually a bonus.
Walked home. You now have to queue to get into the supermarket, at least at 6pm anyway. I don’t know how this is all going to work. Social distancing means you have to stay away from people; I don’t know how many people the grocery store allowed in but there were about 10 queueing outside. I hope it’s quieter at 7am. I hope I am up at 7am.
ON the other hand I want a life where I don’t have to be up at 7am to go queue at the grocery store. There’s something all wrong with that. It reminds me of those spy books set in the 1970s and 1980s, talking about the queues in Soviet Russia.
Someone asked me what was it like there. “So, What’s it like there, Treas?”
Well, you have to queue to get into buy toilet roll at the moment but anyway. No what strikes me most is the quietness. Coincidentally, as I write this, 2 cars pass the front of the apartment. This is a lot. My street, which is usually jammed non-moving at 8am has been deserted these last few days.
There don’t seem to be so many aircraft floating around either although I don’t always hear them so the data is incomplete.
I talked to three people at the office today, maintaining the required gap of 2 metres, and then, when I came home, I realised the only people I will actually exchange words with in real life for the next few months will be the people on the cash desk at the grocery store. It’s a sobering thought. At least one of the cash attendants today was wearing a mask. I could see him through the window while I considered whether to queue or not.
The strange part is talking to Ireland. They are … getting there. Not quite up to the level of queuing to get into the grocery shops, and they haven’t banned people from going out yet. Hope that does not change any time soon. It’s not that I actually want to go out and run ten kilometres – I don’t – but a 2km walk is near mandatory or I am completely screwed. I have a 70 sqm apartment. I’d be hard pushed to walk between the living room and the kitchen enough times to make 2km.
On the group chat at work, we’ve been exchanging recommendations of YouTube videos for getting exercise when stuck at home. All of these recommendations have been matched with fables of the injuries people got when they were doing those exercises. I am somewhat skeptical.
So, there’s a growing list of things I regret not doing since Christmas. Nothing earth shattering. I should have bought a printer. I could do with a second desk. I need a million more shelves. The rapid reorg of my life to facilitate home working has led to any number of Luxembourgish eco-bags containing art materials, fabric and general stuff swished off my desk. It’s really strange to be thinking along those lines.
Today was Saint Patrick’s Day, well, it still is. I don’t think they reattributed it to Saint Andrew just yet. The first track that came on is a recently favourited track from a Zoe Conway album that she did with Julie Fowlis. It’s a setting of a Mairtín O Direáin poem called Faoiseamh a Gheobhadse. You can find it on YouTube.Zoe Conway and John McIntyre
Mairtín O Direáin is my favourite Irish language poet. In fact, I think this is a reflection of my tastes in poetry which tend to the very accessible, very simple but also, very deep. Anyway, I wasn’t familiar with this but the general thrust of this is that he finds peace, walking on the shores of his homeland, amongst his people.
I feel that quite a lot these days mostly because I’m not entirely sure how to get the peace that comes from walking by the sea. I fake it by using the sound of waves on someone’s Soundcloud. It helps. Currently the most exciting thing in my life is that the number 30 bus goes by every 20 minutes. That’s a side track by the way. I was going to talk about the similarities to some random extent I see between O Direain in Irish, and my favourite Irish English language poet who is Patrick Kavanagh. Some account on twitter has been pushing a photograph of Maud Gonne lately and I have been taking the view that as well as not being totally lost on his Nobel winning poetry, William Butler Yeates doesn’t strike me as having fantastic taste in women.
This is very judgmental of me of course. Maud Gonne was probably a perfectly lovely woman. And I didn’t like WB anyway.
Moving swiftly onwards, I have yet to develop a Home Working Listicle. I still haven’t worked out how not to go completely mad but there are two reasons for that a) I don’t have time because I have to cook and therefore I have to wash the ware and b) I’m learning Lord Franklin in DAGDAD on the new guitar so help me god why did you make Luka Bloom so talented. I’m not learning his version of course. I’m making up a perfectly good one of my own
But mostly, I’m not gone mad because of the screen. Three days in with the screen and Oh I am in love.
The sewing machine might be in trouble.
Paddywackery has its place, but when you’re traveling to Ireland why not bring back something authentic? Having grown up in the States from Irish ancestry, I was used to thinking Irish was Beleek, Waterford Crystal, and Aran sweaters. Now, having...
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I’m in Luxembourg, one of the richest countries in the world. I’m working from home for the foreseeable and glad for the right to be able to do so. The Luxembourg government ordered that all the restaurants and cafés and pretty much any non-essential businesses apart from groceries, pharmacies and banks should close. A lot of people cannot work from home and a lot of them today aren’t working at all. Not sure whether post offices are affected but I’ll try to find out. I have a Seanad vote sitting here when I find someone to sign the identity paper that came with it. It would be pretty annoying if my first time to exercise a right to vote in the Seanad got stymied by a virus.
I went out for a walk after work this evening, and after I had been to my local grocery store to get food – they were clean out of pretty much everything but they did have a reasonable selection of pizza. Hopefully tomorrow they will have some meat and a few more vegetables. They had installed their response to social distancing. They painted a yellow line on the floor, a bit like at passport control, and confused the hell out of many of their customers who did not know where they were supposed to stand. The queuing set up will take a while to get used to, I think, and I’m going to struggle because they make you stand right with the display with a whole pile of chocolate miniEggs for Easter. The temptation to just get some chocolate is Almost Too Much To Bear. The supermarket was curiously full of parents with children too. It was like being at Mass on Christmas morning with a lot of excited children’s voices.
The walk though, that was strange. There was no traffic; the odd jogger giving me 2 metres and practising their social distancing. Every ten minutes, a bus went by, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so few cars. And you could smell things. You could smell the pile of woodchip that they’ve spread somewhere near one of the schools not too far from where I live, and the wood that some workmen had thrown in a skip near the supermarket. Normally I would not notice these things, but in the quiet…it’s seems like every sense is a bit more intense.
We’re really right at the start of this experience I think. I hesitate to call it an adventure; and anyway elements of it I hate. But it’s going to have the oddest impact on the most mundane parts of my life. My electricity bill is going to completely sky rocket. I’m here all the time, and computers which were switched on maybe two or three times a month are now on at least 5 days a week. And there’s a screen. And I use so much more of my internet data allowance. And I’ll drink so much more water. All because I am here.
All day long. Mostly listening to Icelandic soft piano music in the background, except for the inevitable conference calls. Why am I using so much data again? It’s lonely. My weekend reading list filled up with “how not to go crazy while teleworking” but to be honest, the biggest issue for me was how to stop working. The odd thing reminds you. The need for bread and the fact that if you don’t get there in time they are out of bread. There might be a few rolls left if you’re lucky. If you don’t need bread, it’s possible you miss normal knock off time.
We have the tools to stay in contact; I keep a chat window open with my team and they are great. It’s not really the same as dropping down the corridor to them, but hey, we do it. And I stay in contact with a few other people who work elsewhere. We swap stories. One of my friends said that one of his joys was that he could work on a Windows machine again (heh). The world has discovered – once more – when something must happen, it will happen.
I saw a comment on twitter during the week that people should, if possible, journal what this time was like; historians in the future would value it. And to try and handwrite it as handwritten papers tend to last longer than digital records. This stunned some techbros on the thread actually. This, I don’t really see as journaling the experience of what might turn into much more of a lockdown, more a mind clearing exercise for me.
It’s hard to say what normal will be when all of this is ended. I don’t think we’re going back to how life was 3 weeks’ ago. In some ways, that might be attractive. Walkers could very easily take over the streets given how few people will be driving. It’s hard to say how many airlines will survive the complete and utter standstill in travel that is coming. It’s hard to imagine how long this is going to take. You try to predict it based on experience elsewhere but it’s not getting normal in Italy any time soon.
I like to think that maybe, there will be some recognition of the need for all of us to work together and that the ability to do this, the will to do it, will stand to us later on. That the need to refocus ourselves will cause us to take that step back and smell the sweetness in the air, from two metres away, of course.
In the meantime, we take each day as it comes.
LIKE MANY FAMILIES, we're practicing evidence-based techniques of self-isolation--such as the ready-made face protection shown in the photo. I've also observed three items related to surviving during the 2019 Corona Virus. The three images in this post are the three most-viewed through my Flickr account on Friday, March 13, 2020.1. People want to hear expert advice.
I have a lot of respect for Darren Ryan from Clonmel Childcare (above). I listened to him while inside the TippFM roadcaster as he explained the impact children have to community health. I worry about the financial and physical health of the child care sector in Ireland and hope major interventions can be offered to stabilise this sector of life.2. Public intoxication is less obvious.
The current Irish lockdown overlaps Paddy's Day when you would normally expect a supercharged national drinking session. However, I see fewer public drunks and haven't spotted spent pint glasses sitting around on window sills or doorways when walking on the path near pubs. Stories on Instagram show people are still enjoying their pub sessions and the two pubs I've visited had regular customers sitting and chatting well inside the recommended social distancing circles.3. Remote digital connections are helpful.
Self-isolation affects our family tree across eight time zones at the moment and we're connecting more frequently with cousins in Oregon, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Drogheda through handheld apps like Skype, Zoom, and Marco Polo. I wish the grandparents would invest in home broadband or would learn to use data services on their handset. Their grandkids are growing up miles away from their front doors and they are losing connections to them because "people should put their phones down and talk" instead of flicking through photostreams and newsfeeds.
I wonder how self-isolation is affecting you? Let me know--I'm @topgold on all good social networks.
[Bernie Goldbach teaches creative media for business on the Clonmel Digital Campus of the Limerick Institute of Technology.]
In 1989, I created basic computer literacy training material for US Army snipers and tank mechanics. The students were often GED graduates who often studied the field classroom shown above. Since the 90s, I’ve used Moodle  and Microsoft Education tools  while trying to ensure high levels of accessibility as the absolute measure of merit with whatever I create. Through the years, I’ve validated ten tips for effective distance education that I often offer to colleagues for their peer review as they attempt to adapt lectures, assignments, and activities for online learning. It is a lot of work so if have to “get on with it” you might consider a few ideas from my corner.1. Know your limits.
Accept the reality you may not have the skills required to convince a pinhole camera that you have something worth learning. Holding the attention of a distant audience you cannot see involves a skill set more commonly found on an improv stage, not a lecturing platform.2. Tick-off list please.
Offer students a clear road map of tasks they must do, material they must view, and suspenses they must meet. We use Moodle’s Virtual Learning Environment  and I’ve created shortened all assignments into bit.ly links. For example, students completing my Emerging Trends module know one of their continuous assessments is http://bit.ly/trendsca2001 and I cross-post the assessments in checklist form inside Microsoft Class Notebooks for every module I teach. If an activity requires close attention to browser-based activities, I show a list of URLs and a screenshot of the browser tabs that should be open to accomplish the activity in the shortest time. I collect those tabs in URLs for free via One-Tab.com.3. Spark a group dynamic.
Online classes are not a simple substitute for face-to-face classroom conversations but you can engender a group dynamic into your online environment by incorporating two or more voices in your presentations. Conversational activities keep viewers and listeners engaged. The most-viewed educational courseware I’ve made involve two or more voices. You can get voices and audio fills by snipping content from Creative Commons video or audio clips. You can often slice small segments from top shelf podcasts while crediting the source in both your own voice and in the notes accompanying your education material. I’ve several years of audio files that lecturers are welcome to use and Andre Louis has gigabytes of sound files that could enhance presentations with audio bumpers.4. Mic, camera, lights.
If you’re serious about creating effective online content, you will have a proper microphone, an HD camera, and be well-lighted. The fastest way to get someone to tune you out is if they have to strain to hear what you are saying. If your camera work is low resolution, you will shed viewers. And if you look like a shadowy figure because of poor lighting, your presentation appears suspicious and even abhorrent. If you don’t have a camera crew or instructional designer assistant, you should try to change your camera angle or video content at least every two minutes.5. Embrace your unplanned moments.
They could be perfect accent points for your educational videos. So review your work and correct your video mistakes with text fly-outs. If you’re creating audio-only, just inject a sound effect like a record scratch or a bleep and correct your error.6. Set up side room action.
Supplement your educational material with chat rooms (Discord is great), instant polls, and surveys such as those Socrative offers.7. Ask your students for ideas.
They will often recommend a visual style or reveal where they spend most of their time online. If you visit those common watering holes you could improve the visual aesthetic used in your own learning materials.8. Offer more than one place for uploads.
Sometimes I ask for Word Documents. Other assignments require both Word docs and imagery. Collages, photostreams, and short form videos can show sophisticated levels of understanding. Since most of my students are in their early 20s, I ask them to create four types of content (text, imagery, video, and audio) in response to the deep reading and reflection required to master subject material. We use Office365 for file uploads and Microsoft Class Notebooks for text inputs.9. Watch and Listen Yourself.
Watch videos from online educators and learn instructional design techniques from them. Attend professional development sessions where you can hear others discuss shortcuts they’ve discovered in your line of work. These sessions are part of regularly scheduled activities on the main campus of the Limerick Institute of Technology. 10. Follow innovators online.
Many use Twitter several times a day to stay abreast developments such as the current Corona Virus Lockdown. I have a few Twitter lists on my @topgold account. Here’s a short list of people I’ve read on the #flattenthecurve conversation. These voices influenced this blog post—thanks!
- Adam Brown @digitalzones
- Catherine Cronin @catherinecronin
- Christine Grant @christorical
- Paige Harden @kph3k
- Jennifer Juniper @PaisleyJaneCo
- Herman Mays @mermmays
- Goldbach, B.F. "Essential ingredients of our e-learning portal", November 15, 2003.
- Ibid, "Easy HiQ Audio Feedback with Class OneNote", July 31, 2017.
- Ibid, "Revamping Moodle", March 10, 2004.
- Ibid, "The Hunt Report Revisited", September 3, 2012,
I SAT IN a TippFM Roadcaster as information trickled in from the States where An Taoiseach laid out plan to self-isolate the Republic of Ireland. Some of his guidance was already in place on the Clonmel Digital campus in the form of warning signs and planning to cancel face-to-face meetings with students.
Schools, Further Education Centres and Higher Education Institutions closed for students from 6pm on Thursday March 12th. But as a staff member, I am "encouraged to work from home per the advice from Health officials". This is challenging for me because I have to concurrently supervise the spontaneously activated online and flexible learning programmes of my two primary school children. I'm using skills developed over the past 17 years while working with young teens. 
And the physical premises of the LIT-Clonmel campus remains open to staff "if they wish to access the facilities in order to provide online delivery, or essential services once this is in line with HSE advice on social distancing" (see chart at top of post).
I haven't found any staff member who feels empowered to turf out students from the labs because our high spec rendering machines are the only assets our digital animators and game art designers can use to complete essential facets of their final year projects.
I wonder how other front line lecturers teaching some of the most complex academic modules to the next generation of knowledge workers are balancing their professional responsibilities. I'm taking the advice of Nancy R. Gough, PhD. on social distancing  and offer it below to loyal readers who know it is important to avoid or limit face-to-face interactions.
- Stay home as much as practical and limit contact with people when outside the home by avoiding crowded spaces.
- Avoid hugging or kissing or shaking hands when greeting people who do not live with you or who do but returned from outside the house and have yet to wash their hands.
- Avoid gatherings where the space between people will be less than three feet.
- Avoid eating in restaurants, going to pubs, attending church services, commuting on public transportation during peak crowded hours.
- Wash hands after being outside of the house and before touching places in your home.
- Wash hand towels frequently or switch to disposable paper towels (if you can find them on the shelves of local shops).
- Try to avoid touching your face when outside of the home.
- Use the space in large meeting rooms for in-person meetings by sitting three or more feet apart. 
Don’t shake hands
- Avoid unnecessary travel.
- Bring your lunch to work and sit upwind from anyone else.
- Carry sanitizing wipes and clean the surface you will touch.
- Use hand sanitizer after touching a shared surface or wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching a shared surface.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Goldbach, B.F. "Schoolworks learning from mobiles" on Inside View from Ireland, February 27, 2007.
- Gough, N.R. "Social distancing is key to slowing COVID-19 Spread", Medium, March 10, 2020.
3. On Closer Look, Seth Meyers spotlights a unique Italian method for effective social distancing.
Bernie Goldbach posted a photo:
In the TippFM Roadcaster
Bernie Goldbach posted a photo:
Listening to Ireland beginning its lockdown.
Here we have it. My free ‘what the heck do I do with my kids while they are at home in isolation’ guide to online resources. Bookmark this; in all likelihood we are all going to need it.
Just to mention; don’t unleash your kids at all of this in the first day or even days. There is loads for them to work their way through. If you let them do everything all at once they will become overwhelmed and disinterested.
Learning to Code
Suitable for all ages, Coding is something that we have been doing for a few years. Code.org is a free resource which starts your kids from scratch (sorry folks I couldn’t resist) with familiar characters to make the lessons feel more like playtime.
If you’re interested in moving a bit further than code.org then install Scratch on your pc. We’ve had some good fun with this free application.
Free Books & Magazines
I’m a huge fan of our library card opening a whole new world of reading and enjoyment. If you’re in isolation you’re not going to be able to visit the library but your card gives you free access to BorrowBox which includes free audiobooks and ebooks, you can also read magazines on RBDigital using that same card.
Learning to Type For Free
Libraries in Ireland have recently rolled out TTRS (Touch Type Read Spell) membership for members but this has to be activated in person. If you’re not in isolation get to the library and set up your account. TTRS is brilliant for children who have dyslexia, dyspraxia and other specific learning disabilities. Think about it though, your child being able to type from a young age will be hugely beneficial later on in life. While you’re at it you might like to sign yourself up too. I know how to type but I still got myself an account.
I learned this one from the kids’ school actually. It’s a browser called KIDDLE. It’s a ‘safe’ visual search engine for kids. It is safer than letting your children loose on Google.
Origami is great for fine motor skills. You’ll find free folding directions here https://www.origami-resource-center.com/free-origami-instructions.html
You know that if you are in isolation your kids can still play in the garden? So long as you ensure that you all keep your distance from others it’s fine to let them out to run amuck. You might not have a garden though or the weather might be dire (I do live in Ireland after all). GoNoodle is a free app and YouTube channel which is designed to engage kids in the classroom (so in tight spaces). Clear a small area of obstacles and get active in bursts.
Speaking of which if you do manage to get out and about this Irish website about Biology might get you started on taking part in a biodiversity study or taking a look at your surroundings.
Keeping Up With Irish
TG4 have their own microsite for children based around their popular Cúla4 kids content. You can of course catch up with their favourite cartoons etc in Irish but they also have a Games and Crafting section on the website which is very helpful. Not forgetting their apps which are second to none.
Looking for similar in English? RTéjr is just as good.
What older kid doesn’t love Horrible Histories? Once again there’s games around a historical theme on this website by Scholastic.
Is Maths your thing? Math is fun is free and has oodles of stuff to keep everybody occcupied.
I remember learning to play chess many years ago and it’s a great way to keep a small brain occupied and working on strategy.
Does your child have a healthy interest in Science? The American Museum of Natural History has a wonderful child-friendly website which will keep them engaged as they work their way through the ‘ology’s’.
We also like to find out how stuff works. A must for curious children.
The BEST Irish website for history is Dúchas and if your kids (or even you) would like to contribute to Irish history and help the archives then consider helping transcribe the community archives. There are tens of thousands of pages left to transcribe.
It’s also worth guiding your children through the Census archives, looking up your family tree and finding out what their ancestors were doing/living many years ago.
I realise this might not be popular but you will want to consider allowing your children to play cooperative games online using headphones with their friends. I’m not going to suggest any ones in particular but you need to bear in mind that the longer their isolation goes on the worse they will feel. This feeling of being connected with their friends can be partially helped by using online games.
Obviously organsing facetime/video calling with friends and family will also help but nothing compares with theme catching up with their pals for a short while every day.
If you have any ideas that I’ve not thought of feel free to comment below!
Note: This is specifically for free online resources. I’m aware that there are loads of paid websites that offer free trials etc. I just want to sign up for stuff for free. Goodness knows we all might be feeling the pinch in the weeks ahead.
Are you worrying about what food supplies you should have in the house? I have you covered.