The Power of Birds

How to Make These Next Few Weeks a Little Easier, Courtesy of Birds, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I’ve been anti-bird, but I have seldom felt common-cause with the bird-watching set. For the past couple of weeks, though, birds, just the everyday around town birds, have fascinated me. Perhaps because I can see and hear them without the distractions of urban life that have largely melted away. Oliver and I spent 20 minutes just looking at the interplay between ducks and gulls and the outflow of Government Pond a couple of Sundays ago.

I often talk about the power of birds, but this year they take on an even more powerful meaning. They enliven our days, brighten the trees, serenade in our backyards and city parks, and bestow us with so much joy and hope, all bundled together in feathers and lively personalities.

That’s a paragraph that I’m particularly able to accept this morning.

How to keep frequent handwashing from destroying your hands…

Very early on in her life with cancer, Catherine benefited from a call with an anonymous “cancer buddy,” a veteran who knew the drill.

One piece of useful advice she got was to up our family handwashing game: keep the soap stocked, get a supply of cloth towels to use once and then launder, leave hand sanitizer by the front door. And make sure everyone washes their hands, all the time.

When you wash your hands in a life or death way, as we’re all doing now, they can start to shrivel up and die in a way that exceeds the capabilities of regular moisturizers.

Fortunately, I found O’Keeffe’s Working Hands. You only need a tiny bit of it—indeed the instructions on the tube command this—to return your hands from the dry wastelands, and they don’t end up feeling greasy or sticky.

You can find O’Keeffe’s in most pharmacies these days. A tube lasts me 6 months.

Addressing the Collegiality Drought

I didn’t know how much I was missing day to day interactions with human beings, at least ones that I have not fathered, until we held Pen Night online tonight, spending two and a half hours together in a videoconference. A meeting that, after a few had dropped out, and with pixelation to protect the innocent attendees, looked like this:

Pixelated rendering of our Pen Night Zoom meeting

It was wonderful. Not quite as nice as a face to face get together, but, as I said as we concluded, something that resulted in at least a 25% increase in the state of my mental health.

It’s good to be reminded that social distancing doesn’t mean that we need to cut off contact with humanity; that this pandemic has come at this time, with the tools and bandwidth to support high-fidelity telepresence, is a great gift.

We used Zoom for the meeting, an app that all the cool kids seem to have landed on all at once over the last year (one wonders whether its status as the hip anti-Skype will hold once the calculus lectures start to be offered via Zoom next week as e-learning fires up across the continent).

You can use Zoom for free to host a meeting for up to 100 people for up to 40 minutes; I upgraded my Zoom to the $15.00/month plan which allows meetings of up to 24 hours (what a Pen Night that would be!).

This is my second Zoom of the pandemic era, and in both cases the attendees were a mix of young and old, digital-savvy and not; everyone seemed to figure it out without needing additional support, which is perhaps Zoom’s greatest selling feature: it just works.

If you have a board or a club or a group or a night, and you want to keep it going despite the need for us all to remain apart, I heartily recommend you consider this as an option; tonight it wasn’t so much the inks and the pens and the paper and the notebooks that was the important thing for me, it was the collegiality. Collegiality seems in short supply these days; fortunately it’s easily manufactured.