How is everyone?

It has been a month since any new planting here. That is unusually long for me.

I am fine, thanks. And you? I hope readers, wherever they may be, are taking precautions during this pandemic, and staying away from harm.

For the first weeks of our local “shelter in place” orders, it was not making much difference in day-to-day life for me. I work from home most of the time, and I was not teaching or otherwise needing to be on campus during the time that the orders to avoid being on campus came in.

Now, this past week, the spring quarter has started. So all of a sudden I am teaching from home, via Zoom. I can thank our synagogue for introducing me to Zoom over the preceding weeks. I was on a committee and we were using Zoom for meetings and interviews (we were attempting to hire new personnel) even before it became the sudden new thing everyone was using.

The strange thing is, given my tendency to live some distance from my employer (even more so in my UCSD days than in my Davis days), there were many times over the years when I mused about how nice it would be to stay home, with a view of the fruit orchard, and lecture from afar. But now that I have to do it, I… kind of… don’t much like it. I mean, it has gone better than I expected, after one week, but that is a low bar. I miss the in-person engagement. The technology, while quite amazing, still has its limitations.

The current crisis has taken away my two most important forms of social interaction–synagogue and teaching classes. May those be the worst things it ever takes from me, or from any of us.

8 thoughts on “How is everyone?

  1. Feeling much the same, I did not think I would miss teaching in person, but I do. It has been nice to get to know the local birds a little better though. Stay safe Matthew, and thanks for reaching out to the community!

  2. I’m used to working from home, so I can feel pretty normal on workdays. Weekends are extremely weird though, having lots of brunches-over-zoom to keep in touch with folks.

  3. Yes, it feels weird. Where I am, the skies are clear, beautiful days, a little less traffic than usual on the roads. It feels (and I emphasise, “feels”, like a phoney war and I keep thinking of Jean Baudrillard’s musings on whether the (first) Gulf War actually took place.

  4. Universities apparently have extra protection via AARNET, I’m told… think of it like having a conversation in a crowded cafe.
    (I suspect we’ll have to explain to our great-grandchildren what crowded cafes used to be like, along with video stores, dial-up modems and petrol-powered cars…)

  5. I’m fine and hope all the others who frequent this site are too. I feel for those who have lost their jobs or, even worse, their lives, but the restrictions on the rest of us are bearable for the greater good.

    I spent 18 minutes on Zoom for my U3A class. No one could hear the tutor. Instead we had 18 minutes of “I can’t hear Tony [the tutor] can he hear us Tony can you hear us nod if you can he’s nodding I can’t see anyone hello we’re here I’m here too where’s the sound press the microphone button at the bottom I can’t see it at the bottom of the screen where did that come from that’s somebody’s screen Tony can you hear us hello we’re here I can hear you but not him there’s no picture you have to turn the camera on how do I do that now it’s gone there’s a button at the bottom of the screen I’ve just sent Tony a message who’s that no just let me do it hello can you hear us yet Tony, he’s still talking but we can’t hear him there’s mute button you have to stop it this could be a movie I’ve sent Tony another message there’s no video you have to turn the camera on there you are I can’t hear Tony nobody can hear Tony does he know we can’t hear him he’s still talking I’ve sent him a message…”. I gave up and sent Tony an email.

    The site,, is great for statistics on the Virus. It is updated frequently and shows huge differences from country to country. The overall death rate in closed cases is 21 per cent and has been every time except once that I have checked over the past week. Australia has done amazingly well. Its death rate in closed cases is 2 per cent. To put it another way, Australia has had 259 cases per million people, compared with the USA’s 2,309, the UK’s 1,769 and France’s 5,744. Australia has had 3 deaths per million people, compared with the USA’s 123, the UK’s 237 and France’s 309. Better than Australia is Japan with a case rate of 85 per million people and a death rate of 2 per million people, though its death rate in closed cases is 17 per cent.

    We have had a high degree of bipartisanship, connected, I think, with the establishment of the national cabinet of the PM, the state premiers and the territory chief ministers. A Liberal PM is chairing a “cabinet” of five Labor and four Liberal leaders. We haven’t had the dreadful squabbling that characterises the Trumpian relationship with state governors. There have been mistakes – there always are and always will be – but, overall the policies implemented have squashed the Virus.

    The federal government has embarked on a stimulus program the likes of which we have never before seen; e.g., $130 billion just to pay $1,500 a fortnight to everyone, irrespective of previous pay, whom an organisation keeps on if that organisation is a non-profit that has lost 15 per cent of revenue, if that organisation is a small business that has lost 30 per cent of revenue or that organisation is a large business that has lost 50 per cent of revenue. The Reserve Bank has, I believe for the first time ever, just created $50 billion to buy government bonds. I know that’s chickenfeed in the context of the US Federal Reserve that creates a trillion here and a trillion there, until before you know it we’re talking big money, but it’s big deal here.

    People’s criticism of the coronavirus lockdown is like telling people sheltering under umbrellas in the rain that the fact that they are dry proves they didn’t need the umbrellas in the first place.

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