Coping With a Pandemic When You (Think You) Have No One

The COVID-19 crisis is marked by turmoil, grief, and anxiety for many people. Having others to rely on during this time can mean a world of difference in how you’re coping. But what if you’re alone? (Or truly feel yourself to be alone?)

There’s no one-size-fits-all advice for dealing with social isolation and related problems. Your age, health, job, and living arrangement are among the factors affecting what will work for you and what won’t. But I’m going to offer some potentially useful links here. If you have some suggestions of your own, please share.

The following links apply to people in the U.S., where I live. If you’re outside of the U.S., you can use these for ideas when looking for analogous services in your country.

What Does It Mean to Be a Warrior of the Increments?

In recent years, I’ve been encouraging myself to get into the mindset and habits of a Warrior of the Increments. (Putting it in caps makes it sound like an official title that’s going to stick, and I hope it does.) But what do I mean?

– A Warrior of the Increments places secondary importance on grand gestures and primary importance on the small tasks and day-to-day efforts that may not seem like much when looked at separately but that do amount to something much more over time.

– These smaller efforts help change bad habits and sustain better ones. They help you work towards goals and create conditions in which well-being, understanding, and success are more likely to be the outcomes.

– Generally, the most difficult battles you have in life are with spiritual inertia, self-destructive habits, the sluggishness of the mind, and the frailty of the body. Working on changes, bit by bit, is crucial.

– A Warrior of the Increments doesn’t think only in terms of all-or-nothing battles. Sometimes you are fighting alongside something, not merely against it. Other times, you’re settling down for diplomatic talks and negotiating a workable peace.

– A warrior of this kind is very much a “one foot in front of the other” type.

TwoSet Violin Is So Fun

Two classically trained violinists have been running a YouTube channel full of goofy, geeky humor, music games, and silly reviews, plus genuinely educational content about technique, styles of different composers and performers, etc.

The following are samples of the many videos on their channel (I’ve watched just a small fraction):

Continue reading “TwoSet Violin Is So Fun”

How to Keep Your Day Structured: Inspiration From Two Sources

If you’re currently working or studying from home and aren’t used to it, it may be difficult to adjust and to keep your days from collapsing into an undifferentiated mass of goo.

Someone forwarded me this video from It’s a Southern Thing (a lighthearted YouTube channel on living in the American South), and I’m offering it as the first source of “work from home inspiration”:

At roughly 1:15, you’ll find The Planner, who sets up his desk and writes a schedule on a whiteboard. When that part comes up, pause the video and check out how he’s organized his day. It’s a decent template for a day’s schedule, though obviously you’ll need to adapt it to your own set of obligations.

He sets aside a specific block of time to work on a presentation. Maybe that’s his top work priority of the day, because it needs to get done soon. Usually, on any given day, you’ll have at least one thing that really needs attention more than others.

For other work, he’s set up a general work/catch-up category that may also wind up getting carved up into a few main tasks or maybe just serve as a flexible time to attend to whatever comes up. He also makes room for things like meals and exercise.

Consider how you’ll also take breaks within the times allotted for work tasks. For example, an hour of work can look like 25 minutes of work, a 10-minute break, then 25 more minutes. Even if you don’t get everything done within a certain time slot, at least you’ll have completed some of the work (as opposed to leaving it untouched and forgetting about it until the absolute last minute).

(Yes, this is supposed to just be a funny video, but I’m saying, you can get inspiration from anywhere. Also, I had a quick look through the channel, and found this other funny video portraying a southern fashion show that made me smile.)

The second source of scheduling inspiration I’m sharing with you comes from Khan Academy. Among their parental resources for kids learning at home, there are some schedule templates covering preK to 12th grade. These templates offer ideas for different activities throughout the day with time for play and rest too. You can adapt them for your kids or use them for ideas about how to structure your own day if you’re working and studying. (“Ideally run around and play outside. Have a snack” is potentially good advice for an adult, and may be useful if you have a yard or access to an uncrowded outdoor space.)

Deliberately Choosing Life, Every Day (A Response to a Hoagland Essay)

I’m writing this post for a reading challenge, Deal Me In (hosted at this blog). Though it’s difficult to write it at the moment, because of what’s going on with the pandemic and the serious economic problems we’re facing, I find blogging helpful, so I’m keeping at it in between various obligations.

Edward Hoagland’s essay, “Heaven and Nature,” deals with a topic people tend not to want to think about: suicide. His meditation on suicide encompasses everyone, including people who don’t – at least outwardly – appear to be troubled by anything.

Our faces are not molded as if joy were a preponderant experience. (Nor is a caribou’s or a thrush’s.) Our faces in repose look stoic and battered, and people of the sunniest temperament sometimes die utterly unstrung, doubting everything they have ever believed in or have done.

The bleak discussion of human nature is tempered somewhat by Hoagland’s matter-of-fact tone. And in the bleakness of this essay, there are some kernels of light.

He discusses what it takes to negotiate the cracks and fissures of the self and of life. Sometimes it’s a matter of not dwelling too much on misery. Love and prayer are other answers. However, he doesn’t present them as a quick fix. Meaning to say, if you pray, you need to work out, over time, what prayer means to you, what you believe in, what you think can sustain you. This may not be the same from one year to another, or one decade of your life to another. Similarly, with love – habits of love are key to making love a powerful force. You need to stay open to “new and sudden insights” and/or engage in a “long practice” of love. And this can mean love in different forms, not limited to a romantic relationship.

He also talks about the urge to achieve a unity with something larger, to transcend the self, and for nature itself to be wedded to Heaven. However, this unity is also something to grapple with, to sustain or work towards actively. There are no guarantees of complete freedom from harrowing doubt.

Just to be perfectly clear, this is not a self-help essay. It’s not an easy read either, and Hoagland isn’t doling out solutions (and especially not one-size-fits-all sorts of solutions). Reading this essay can be a challenge, and may not be for everyone in every frame of mind.

I think what helps sustain me is the belief in the meaning of life and holiness of life. Not to regard people as sentient sacks of meat or bags of water, as organic trash. Seeing the moments of life, day to day, as holy and meaningful requires active practice and choice, habits that you develop and that hopefully don’t become merely rote. It also involves some flexibility and adjustment over time. To not let yourself dry up spiritually is a matter of deliberate, consistent effort. And if you do dry up spiritually, to not proclaim that you’ve reached your end. Instead, to keep walking through that desert, experiencing the desert and finding meaning in it (which is not the same thing as finding happiness). And staying open to the possibility that the landscape will change or that you will find things in that desert that are still meaningful, wondrous even.

I write this as someone who’s religious. Religion itself is a regular practice, a deep grappling. It isn’t a source of pat answers, though the practice of it may become stale and crumble into clichés. Regardless of what religion you practice – or whether you even consider yourself religious – you need to find what it is that sustains you and then sustain it through repeated choice, through practices that you may need to alter as the years pass. What are your relationships with others, with the world, with what transcends you? If you don’t know, keep thinking about it. Keep searching, and be patient. Keep choosing life.

It’s interesting how an essay that deals with a grim topic can bring out a response that affirms life, but it had that effect on me, even with an awareness of the doubting, the fear, the darkness.

Note-Taking Skills Video: Cornell Method

To follow up on this list of educational websites, I’m going to recommend another one: Socratica, a YouTube channel that focuses primarily on math and science topics but also has some humanities videos and videos giving advice on study tips.

On the study tips playlist is one video I watched recently about the Cornell Method of taking notes:

A good thing about this video is that she gives an example of the note-taking method during a short chemistry lesson. This method encourages more than just re-reading notes. You’re expected to engage with them even more actively (by fixing errors and creating the cues and summary sections).

Some Commonsensical Coronavirus Advice From a Doctor

If you have symptoms and are wondering whether or not to go to the doctor or E.R., watch this video.

Basically – for most people – staying at home and calling your doctor for extra confirmation about what to do is the best way to protect yourself and others.

Heading to a clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital with relatively mild symptoms can a) expose you to other illnesses b) increase the chances that you’ll infect others and c) contribute to the overburdening of a healthcare system which needs to make room for people who are most in need of medical attention. If your symptoms are relatively mild, and they aren’t deteriorating into alarm signs (which he describes in the video), your best bet is to rest at home, call your doctor for additional advice if necessary, and take other precautions (like washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, coughing into your elbow, avoiding crowded and confined spaces, and avoiding close contact with others).

School Closed Because of Coronavirus? Check Out These 18 Educational Sites

Many kids around the world are missing out on classes because of coronavirus closures, and in the U.S. the number of closures is expected to increase, both for K-12 institutions and colleges.

Even if your school is still open, these sites are worth checking out. You’ll find content for a variety of levels, and for both kids and adults.

1) Atlas Obscura – Exploring the wonders of the world.

2) Bozeman Science – Excellent videos primarily on AP chemistry, biology, physics, and environmental science.

3) CK-12 – A resource for different topics in science, math, and social studies.

4) Curiosity Machine – Offers challenges involving artificial intelligence, engineering, and other areas of science and technology.

5) edX – Lots of courses geared towards professionals and students in higher ed. However, there are younger students who could also benefit from the site.

6) freeCodeCamp – Check out their YouTube channel too. HTML & CSS, Javascript, Python, an introduction to statistics, and more.

7) GCFLearnFree – Many tutorials on computer programs, job skills, communication skills, critical thinking, and other useful and important topics.

8) Khan Academy – Because a list like this wouldn’t be complete without it. They even posted content about coronavirus school closures and how the site can help.

9) MetKids – The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City offers an interactive, kid-friendly feature for exploring the museum. Includes many suggestions for creative activities.

10) OpenStax – Free online textbooks.

11) Physics Girl – YouTube channel exploring topics in the physical sciences, with demonstrations of experiments you can try.

12) Project Gutenberg – Free eBooks. Here are their top 100.

13) Read Theory – For help with reading comprehension skills.

14) Science Friday – Lots of subjects covered in article, audio, and video form. (Just one example: a look at the word quarantine.)

15) Simplilearn – A YouTube channel for building digital skills. Includes tutorials on data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

16) StoryJumper – A fun way for kids to create their own books.

17) We Are Teachers: Free Printables – Search by grade level and subject.

18) Wonderopolis – For exploring different topics, working on reading comprehension, and getting ideas for creative and educational activities.

YouTube Exercise Channel Recommendation: Koboko Fitness

I recently discovered Koboko Fitness, and while I haven’t tried every workout video, I like the ones I’ve used so far.

– There are a variety of exercises and routines.

– The routines vary in length. Some may be 5-10 minutes, while others are half an hour. I like that, because sometimes if I have a free 10 minutes or just want to take a break from work, I can fit a shorter routine into my schedule.

– For some of the exercises, you may want to have dumbbells, but they aren’t strictly required. A yoga mat or towel can be helpful for floor exercises, but you don’t need to go out and buy any equipment to participate.

– You sometimes get presented with low-impact and high-impact versions of the same exercise. Depending on your fitness level or how you’re feeling on a given day, you may want to go with one or the other. You can also introduce your own intensity level – for example, instead of doing a wall push-up, do a regular push-up on the floor if you can. Or if you don’t want to jump your feet out during a burpee, maybe walk them out and then back in.

– The instructor and creator of the channel is a positive, encouraging person who is dedicated without being a fanatic.

– Although the channel is geared towards women, there are many exercises (maybe even all of them?) that men could benefit from. So if you’re a guy who wants to try out some of the routines, go right ahead (during a workout, you might get called a “beautiful goddess,” but maybe you can cope with that).

Here’s one routine I did today:

Here’s another good one:

And if you’re wondering, no, I’m not affiliated with Koboko Fitness, and I haven’t been paid anything for this post.

Please Stop Confusing Criticism With Censorship

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I don’t confuse criticism with censorship,” that’s great. This post is for people who do, or for people who aren’t sure what I’m talking about and would like some elaboration.

I’ve participated in many discussions over the years where someone reacts to a criticism by saying, “I have a right to my opinion,” even though no one questioned their right to have an opinion. Because there’s a difference between criticizing the content of a statement/opinion/argument and denying your right to express it.

Maybe this reaction is heightened in an environment where people are subject to various forms of censorship. Not just censorship from the government, but the threat of being fired, unpublished, or attacked for expressing a dissenting opinion on a subject. No matter how thoughtful or courteous you are, there may be people who look at any dissent as “harmful” and use it as an excuse to try to ruin you.

But it’s still important to distinguish between criticism and censorship. For example, it’s especially weird seeing so-called “free speech warriors” rail against criticism in the name of free speech, even though criticism itself is a form of speech. But maybe not so weird when you consider that the “confusion” can be deliberate – a useful strategy for staving off criticism and making your opponents seem unreasonable.

I’ve also seen the flip side of this – people calling for censorship while pretending their call for censorship is mere criticism. For example, people may ask for a book to be banned or unpublished and claim that this request is merely a form of criticism. But it isn’t. There’s a difference between thoughtfully writing a negative review of a book and asking for that book to be banned (or burned).