Virtual Social Anti-Distancing

I love surprises. I love them more when I know about them but get to share in surprising someone else. It was a real win when I was asked if it was okay for SMU President, Gerald Turner, to drop in on my digital classroom to chat with students. The SMU President is iconic for walking across campus, shaking hands with students, and chatting them up. Of course, none of us can do that right now. This was a chance to invite some anti-distancing in a safe, digital environment.

It was great to have the President join our class, address seniors’ concerns about the delayed Commencement ceremony (moved to August), and take questions from my students. You can see some of that in this fun little video.

Sunday in the Park with Pandemic

Scenes from Collin County, TX.

Sidewalk chalked with Biblical messages, presumably ahead of Easter. “Spread hope, not Coronavirus” one implores. The sidewalk runs in front of the park. It’s a city park. A sign is staked into the ground nearby, indicating the park is closed by order of the city.

Children climb the monkey bars and run around the playsets. The park is host to a cluster of children. They laugh and climb and play. Their hands run over the public surfaces, not cleaned because the park is closed.

This is in Collin county, home to 128 known victims of COVID-19 and 1 known deceased from the infection.

The Routine

Get up at 6am, or thereabouts. Grab Chromebook. Head to living room. Make coffee. Read newspapers. Shower. Dress for work. Attend morning meetings. Eat breakfast and plan day with Jodi. Start normal work day in the home office. If it’s a Tuesday or Thursday, prepare for class; otherwise, focus on research projects. Check in with students and other colleagues. Go for a run. Eat lunch. If it’s a Tuesday or Thursday, teach. Office hours and other afternoon meetings; if none of those, keep on research projects. Grab a snack. Virtual research break at 4pm; see if anyone drops in. Finish work day. Get out of work clothes and into something more relaxed. Go spend time with Jodi over dinner, reading, TV, etc. Pick up laptop and do some late day work. Head to bed around 8pm. Work until 10pm. Go to sleep.

Sleep fitfully. Wake up in the middle of the night wondering if the sore throat is because you’re thirsty or because of Coronavirus. Go back to sleep. Wake up again. Go back to sleep.

Get up at 6am. Repeat.

Exercise without distraction

One benefit of social distancing and self-isolation has been exercise. Because my work is conducted out of my home office, and because I am not interrupted by unscheduled things that erupt in my workplace, I am able to better focus and stick to my need for regular exercise. As a result, over the past 3 weeks I have been able to maintain a very regular and nearly habit cycle of running (when whether is good; elliptical machine in the home gym when it is not).

I’ve been struggling with tendinitis in one of my hamstrings for about a year; in the same period I’ve been dealing with the beginnings of plantar fasciitis in one of my feet. This has meant a greater commitment to stretching muscles and minding my footwear. The payoff has come in the last month. My hamstring, with regular exercise and stretching, is finally free of pain for most of a week. My fasciitis seems under control as well.

I’ve committed to regular, predictable, short runs. I don’t push things much past 5k loops on a regular day. Today was special. The air was cold; it was only in the 40s Farenheit, so I buttoned up in long pants and a long-sleeve over-shirt. I decided to run around a local golf course (there is one in every compass direction in this part of Texas). People were out on the paths, but it was generally low-traffic and quiet today… even at midday. The recent rains took a toll on the running paths. At one point, I had to double back; there was no way around a large, flooded section. At two other points I crawled through mud and brush to get around a flooded section.

6.5 miles later, I was home.

I hurt. But it’s the right kind of hurt. It’s not hamstring inflammation or a sore foot. It’s the deep gentle whole-body ache of a good run. No worries there: feet up and TV on, and I’ll be just fine tomorrow.

Since getting back into an exercise routine earlier this year, I’ve worked off about 6-7 pounds. I’m slowing clawing my way back against a 20-lb gain that happened from the autumn of 2018 to the end of 2019. It’s nice to be able to concentrate on physics while not sacrificing my health.

For now.