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COVID deficient

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Sun, 09/27/2020 - 6:14pm

Friday, I was selected for the random “surveillance testing” of all students, faculty, and staff at Carleton. 300 of us will be chosen each week for at least this term, so everyone is going to have a chance to get tested a couple more times!

Today I received my results:

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Categories: Citizens

Crowded in the Woods

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Sat, 09/26/2020 - 5:08pm

I went riding yesterday afternoon on the mountain bike trails at the far western edge of town, a network of mostly flat dirt tracks through some woods along the Cannon River and a creek that flows south into the river.

I spend a lot of time on these trails in all four seasons, and I rarely encounter more than one or two people – and often I see no one, even riding two hours or so.

This ride was different! Not only did I meet another serious rider, but I saw a guy starting a campfire, a group of four college students at a fork in the trail, and several pedestrians. So much traffic, I could hardly find a quiet spot to stop for the obligatory bike photo:

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Categories: Citizens

COVIDrinking

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Fri, 09/25/2020 - 10:39am

I’m glad that my favorite brewery, Imminent, is more or less fully open again, but the emptied-out main floor and the giant table of cleaning supplies is so not normal.

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Categories: Citizens

Pandemic Mnemonic

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Thu, 09/24/2020 - 4:58pm

I love this informational cards on the tables at the snack bar, which feature both of Carleton’s unofficial mascots, cows and penguins.

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Categories: Citizens

Outdoor Class

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Wed, 09/23/2020 - 6:03pm

It’s a joke, how students will plead with their instructors to “have class outside today.” A Pandemic College, you can. In fact, you have to. On a gorgeous summery day like today, this is not a bad thing.

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Categories: Citizens

Pandemic! in the Men’s Room

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Tue, 09/22/2020 - 5:05pm

The old building where I’ve worked my whole time at Carleton is being renovated this year, so we’ve relocated to slightly less old building that boasts all of two restrooms. I dunno about the women’s, but the men’s has two stalls – done up in heavy, dark wood like a lavatory at Hogwarts – which under the new pandemic rules, has the capacity for just one, uh, user at a time. Barging in and knocking didn’t work very well to determine occupancy, so a colleague installed a four-phase system for using the restroom.

Phase I: Arrive and flip the occupancy sign to red:

Phase 2: Do your business and as you leave, let Uncle Sam remind you to flip the sign over:

Phase 3: Immediately forget to flip the sign over, but be reminded by the other sign, pinned to the bulletin board straight across the corridor:

Phase 4: Flip the sign back to green and walk away, wondering if touching the sign negated the 20 seconds of hand washing:

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Categories: Citizens

Self-Surveillance

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Mon, 09/21/2020 - 3:09pm

Every day before going to work, I’m supposed to complete a short form to document that I don’t have any COVID symptoms. Sometimes I swing a little late, but so far I’m batting 1.000. It’s bizarre how satisfying I find that streak of “Green – Negative” descriptions. Proof of my virtue, or luck, or privilege, or something.

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Categories: Citizens

Pandemic Racing

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Sat, 09/19/2020 - 5:50pm

Today, I should have been in Marquette, Michigan, racing the Marji Gesick mountain bike marathon.

Finishing the race last year was just about the hardest athletic thing I’ve ever done, up there with the Arrowhead and perhaps only exceeded by the Fat Pursuit. I super eager to do the race again this year, but alas: the pandemic forced its cancellation.

Instead, I headed into the woods here in Northfield for a ninety-minute bike ride on our far easier but still fun trails. Riding the same bike I’d used a year ago at the Marji, I reflected on how much training for and riding in that race changed me as a bike rider.

Some of the changes are pretty trivial, ones I could have achieved with plain old hard work: I use my brakes far less often now than I did 18 or 24 months ago, and I’m far better at riding technical stuff with some speed. But other changes are more interesting, and probably more valuable as we look, as a society, down the long tunnel of this pandemic, work against social injustice, and a tumultuous election. I think they can be reduced to a willingness to be patient and to suffer quietly. Right now is not the time (no matter what the president and his supporters think!) for a white guy to whinge. Just like this night last year, but I have to (metaphorically) just avoid crashing and keep turning the cranks. Maybe donating some money to Democratic senate candidates would be a good start.

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Categories: Citizens

Online Sidewalk Yoga

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Thu, 09/17/2020 - 5:26pm

Tuesday, I looked out my office window around 10 and saw a young woman, dressed in athletic clothes, lying perfectly still on the sidewalk below. I started, thinking something was wrong. But she had a laptop next to her, and after a second, she sat up and assumed a yoga pose. Ah, okay, she’s doing yoga. Outside. On concrete. In the open spot between one academic building and another. Okay.

Today, I happened to get a cup of coffee at about ten, and as I walked back to my office, I nearly stepped on her, again lying perfectly still on the sidewalk. This time, though, I could hear a yoga instructor giving directions through laptop. Ah, okay, she’s in a yoga class. A physical education yoga class. Online. The kid is doing her required PE class via Zoom. Outside. On concrete. In the open spot between one academic building and another. Impressive. Sad. Impressively, sadly normal.

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Categories: Citizens

Socially Distanced Stoop

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 3:34pm

This week’s New Yorker cover by Chris Ware nails the autumn’s neighborhood mood, right down to the tangled flag:

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Categories: Citizens

COVID Debris

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Tue, 09/15/2020 - 4:05pm

I was just thinking as I rode home tonight, “I haven’t seen any discarded masks in a while.” Turn the corner and…

No way I was picking up that thing!

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Categories: Citizens

Physical Distancing on Campus

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Mon, 09/14/2020 - 4:41pm

With the return of students to campus last week and the start of classes today (finally!), signs about masks, about hand washing, about COVID symptoms, and about physical distancing* have flowered everywhere: walls, doors, windows, bathroom stalls, floors, pillars… I guess I haven’t seen any on trees or ceilings, but maybe those will show up tomorrow.

And anywhere two people can queue up, the floor is marked with traffic-flow arrows, spacing dots or x’s, reminders about the magical six feet (“2M,” if you’re metric)…

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Categories: Citizens

Covid Riding

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Sun, 09/13/2020 - 10:41am

I had a fun little gravel ride today with two friends.

We kept pretty good distance between us, not that it matters that much in the open air when we’re mostly moving at 15 mph. A couple times, I thought about other rides on these particular roads – at least once, with one of today’s riders – and struggled to remember, at first, why we could have every ridden in a pack, or clustered around the guy who had a flat, or camped in a tiny little cabin in a county park.

This resetting of older memories is getting more and more frequent for me, a phenomenon that I’ve talked about with many people. Masking and distancing have permeated public life so deeply that it’s hard to remember that they’ve only been around for us since February, and only really common in Minnesota since late July (when the governor mandated masks in public places).

I guess it’s a nice demarcation in our shared personal histories: things we did before the pandemic, things we are doing in it. I suppose there will be a whole set of things that we’ll do after the pandemic, too (ubiquitous masking in health-care settings?) – or not (salad bars are over, right?). For now it’s enough of a challenge to remember that we weren’t being foolhardy eight years ago when ten of us rode in a tight paceline down a rutted, muddy road – we just didn’t have to worry about COVID.

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Categories: Citizens

Fi-Mask-co

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Fri, 09/11/2020 - 4:43pm

I have, I think, eleven masks. I have one stashed in each car, two hanging from a hook in my office, one or two on the hat rack at home, and the rest… Uh… Most of them are in my backpack, I think, but maybe a couple are stuffed in handlebar bags on my bikes.

Today, I headed off to the coffeeshop before work without one around my neck. “No problem,” I thought as I rode along, “I’ll dig one out of my backpack before I go inside.” Nope. Nothing there. I zipped my jacket up as high as I could, just under my nose, and went in. “Do you have any spare masks?” I asked. Luckily, they did, and the barista slid one over the counter to me. Crisis averted. When I got to work, I found the two on the hook, one on the cabinet where I leave my bike helmet, and one on my desk. They both went into my backpack for Monday.

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Categories: Citizens

Who was that masked student?

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Thu, 09/10/2020 - 2:45pm

I had my individual meetings with my four first-year advisees today – nice young men and women,* all suburbanites, all student-athletes, all excited about college. None of them took me up on my offer to have our meetings by video call, and each of them commented in one way or another about being “Zoomed out” after a disrupted senior year of high school, a summer spent looking at a screen, and now orientation that includes a lot of activities on Zoom.

So I enjoyed talking face to face with them, or mask to mask, eight feet apart. I found it taxing to listen to someone that far away whose mouth is hidden by the masks they all dutifully wore. Nonetheless we had some great conversations that covered a lot of ground I’d expected and needed to cover (general education requirements, Carleton as an institution, Northfield as a place) as well some topics that gave me a better sense of them as people – G, who worries about finding enough time to pursue all of his interests; I, who wants to know the best restaurants in town; B, who has already planned out her major; and S, who wants to meet more people already!

All in all, the meetings were refreshing reminders of what Carleton is all about and that the kids are going to do pretty well despite the world we’ve forced them to live in.

But sill: it’s insane to me that everyone – today, literally every person on campus! – is wearing a mask. Disposable ones, Carleton-branded ones, fancy ones, plain ones, pattered ones, solid-colored ones. 2020: the year we couldn’t see anyone’s mouth, and learned to recognize each other by eyebrows and noses.

* After 14 years at Carleton, I feel like I can almost start calling them “kids,” but I remember feeling So Grown Up at 18…

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Categories: Citizens

Pandemic Restrooms

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Wed, 09/09/2020 - 5:34pm

Every day, more signs, posters, flyers, reminders about pandemic health and safety appear around campus. At this rate, the restrooms in our office building will be wallpapered in signage by Halloween. Today’s addition to the door into the two-stall men’s room:

The commodes are new-ish, and there’s a touchless paper towel dispenser, but pretty much everything else appears to be original to the building. This wooden stalls create a look and feel that’s very Hogwarts – but the building went up in 1915, just before the Spanish flu pandemic. I wonder if the college put up posters to exhort masking and washing hands.

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Categories: Citizens

Covid Move-In Day

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Tue, 09/08/2020 - 5:08pm

Today was arrival day for first-year students at Carleton – the Class of 2024! I felt a touch of melancholy all day at the atmosphere: dreary weather, parents and freshmen moving into the dorms on strict shifts, everyone wearing masks and maintaining distance, small quiet groups instead of the big boisterous crowds… It’s just not right! But it’s also reality. More happily, I got in touch with my four FY advisees today. We’ll meet tomorrow morning at 10, which is going to be a nice moment.

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Categories: Citizens

Falldemic

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Mon, 09/07/2020 - 6:12pm

Today, the weather turned dramatically, shaving off 30º F and turning from windy sun to overcast rain. Not only did this mean that I had to scotch plans for a ride, but also that fall has started, at least in the practical sense that I needed an extra layer when I went outside to today.

And if fall has started, then the pandemic has now touched – harmed! – all four seasons. We joked in April about how difficult lockdown would be during the winter, and thanks to Trump’s ineptitude, we might now get a chance to see. At the least, we’re going to have to read the dismal news on the pandemic while enduring the dismal autumnal drizzle. And today, students started coming back to Carleton, which means that those poor first-years are always going to remember literal and figurative clouds hanging over their first days of college.

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Categories: Citizens

Bike riding in a pandemic

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Sun, 09/06/2020 - 12:21pm

Today marks the thirteenth straight weekend that I’ve gone for a longish bike ride with one or more friends.

Till this summer, I’d gone years without riding with anyone, ever since getting out of the habit of the Tuesday-night gravel rides that the club here in town organizes (or used to, in the Before Times). Pressures at home made me stop, but now with teenagers instead of elementary school kids, it’s easier – if not painless – to get out the house on a weekend morning for a long ride – 30 up to 60 or so miles so far.

It’s been absolutely great to do these rides – physically, socially, emotionally. I have not amassed this many bike miles in many, many years, which can only pay off when or if I can race this winter. And I’ve turned a corner with my riding, where going for a ride, even a short one (like the 20-ish miler yesterday evening with Pete), feels wonderful – but where a 60-miler feels even better.

The pandemic has constricted almost everyone’s social life; mine is largely now messaging with a few friends, talk at work (which isn’t really a real social life), workouts with one other guy a few evenings a week, and the occasional evening beer with a couple people at most. Plus the bike rides, which have been 3-5 hours of conversation about politics, the pandemic, work, Carleton, etc. etc. It’s wonderful. I love the rhythms of these bike-ride conversations, which appeal both in being Guy Talk and in being chats with like-minded friends – and which are thus very emotionally satisfying without being soul-searches. I always end the rides feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally satisfied – and maybe spiritually too, since it’s hard not to like scenes like this:

But. Given the constant talk about physical distancing, about masking, about washing hands and such, it’s a bit weird to spend so long in relatively close proximity to several other humans. It feels wrong, even if we’re pretty far apart from each other. I have to keep reminding myself that this is normal and relatively healthy, that riding bikes was a perfectly ordinary thing to do this time last year, that not too long from now it’ll be normal again. I hope. In the meantime, we’ll ride a few arms’ lengths apart and bring masks so one of us can get beer at the brewery afterwards.

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Categories: Citizens

Saturday Activities

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Sat, 09/05/2020 - 4:56pm

Today was an ordinary day, but the pandemic shot through aspect of it.

In the morning, I went driving with Julia so she could practice on the freeway; she’s had her permit for 14 months and won’t have her behind-the-wheel exam for another three weeks because the exams are backlogged after having been suspended for months in the spring due to the pandemic.

In the afternoon I went riding with Pete and wound up as usual at Imminent, where they can only allow about half as many customers as usual due to physical distancing, and where everyone has to wear a mask unless they’re seated at their table. Awkward but also so normal.

And all day, I saw homemade Trump signs, emblems of the cult that has only hardened as the pandemic has wound on. Beyond the run-of-the-mill handmade ones and the obnoxious campaign ones with the “Keep America Great” slogan, the capper was a massive two-sided “TRUMP 2020” sign on a flatbed trailer along US 52 – entirely ringed with barbed wire. Never has there been a more apt metaphor for Trump.

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Categories: Citizens
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