Saturday, August 08, 2020

Weekend Reading: The Looking Ahead Edition

My husband had to take some management training for work this week. They were asked for examples of difficult management problems, and his example was about helping his team remain effective while they are dealing with the problems around child care. He has several people on his team who have young kids and that has created some challenges for them and also for him as their manager. I am dealing with this, too, in my role as project manager. It is nice for a company to say "we'll give our working parents flexibility" but saying that does nothing. It is the middle managers who have to figure out how to make that flexibility happen while also getting work done. I haven't heard of any company saying they'll just aim to get less work done. 

Anyway, my husband told me that one of his fellow managers in the training said something to the effect of "I don't have kids and so I hadn't realized what a big problem this is."

I wonder if that manager has been living under a rock.  But, as my husband pointed out, there is a lot of news right now and it is human nature to gravitate to the news that matters to you, personally. He said this manager is a nice person, and he doesn't think she was trying to be dismissive of the problem. She's probably heard about schools starting online and whatnot and just hadn't thought about how that would create logistical problems for parents.  It is disappointing that his company hasn't offered more guidance to their middle managers on this, but then again, what real guidance is there to offer? I guess they could explain the challenges working parents and other care givers are facing right now and state a company policy of providing flexibility, but again... that doesn't do much. It falls to the manager to figure out how to provide that flexibility.

We talked about how there are no good solutions right now, not at work and not for schools. My husband's boss lives in a school district that thought they could petition to open elementary schools and was gearing up to do that. They were going to make every parent make a binding decision for the entire school year: in person or remote, but they hadn't provided much detail about what their plans were for either. There were acrimonious meetings and stressed out parents... and then the district discovered that they didn't meet all the criteria for the petition, anyway, and so nevermind! Everyone is starting with remote learning.

That district didn't cover itself in glory, but honestly, I feel bad for school administrators, too. They have been given an impossible problem to solve, just like the rest of us. They are probably doing their best.

Here's what I think: There is one real solution for this mess, and that is to do a real lockdown and get the virus transmission down to almost nothing then open slowly and carefully with adequate capacity to test and trace to keep transmission levels low.  This is what other countries have tried to do, with more or less success. We'd either have to do it nationwide or institute a real quarantine on people coming into the locked down region. We'd need to give people money so that they could survive a 4-6 week lockdown. Doing any of this would require a different federal government than the one we have right now. So the real solution is off the table.

There are no other real solutions that the rest of us can cobble together from the things we can control. There just aren't. All we can do is try to pick the best of the bad choices in front of us and try to remember that everyone is trying to do their best in a situation in which there is no winning.

Here's what I have decided I can do: Wear a mask when I'm indoors anywhere except my home. Wear a mask when I'm outdoors if I'm within about 10 feet of anyone not in my immediate family. Keep our outings to a minimum, while still letting the kids see their friends (outside, distanced) sometimes because we're looking at another 6 months of this. Try to give the people on my projects as much flexibility and understanding as I can. Give everyone who is trying to make a plan for anything right now (e.g., schooling) the benefit of the doubt and meet them with kindness. And work to make sure we have a different federal government come January.

So, how about some links.

Speaking of schools... I am worried by this article about extracurricular programs expanding into remote learning centers here in San Diego. The headline frames this as something available for people who can pay, but one of the programs is our local YMCA and as the article explains they do a sliding scale for payment. I think there should be programs for the kids of essential workers. It is clearly not something we can do for all kids, because if we could do that we could have regular schools. But  if you try to make rules about who can use these services, where do you draw the line? I am back at "there are no real solutions available to us right now just people trying to make the best of the impossible hand they've been dealt" and all I can confidently say is that we won't be using one of those services. 

Here's what my school district has said about plans for distance learning. I think we're supposed to get more detail next week. 

If you haven't read Ed Yong's piece on our American failure during this pandemic, you really should read it.

This tweet succinctly states how I feel. I'm planning for no meaningful improvement until after January. My county and state look to be getting our current spike under control, but I expect more spikes and no ability to reopen indoor things until we get a better federal response.


As we look ahead to how we might "build back better" here are some things I've been thinking about.

David Roberts has a really good look at the promise in Rewiring America's jobs report. If you want to know why we're replacing our aging furnace with a heat pump, it traces back to me listening to Ezra Klein's interview with Saul Griffith, who is one of Rewiring America's founders. He makes the case that we shouldn't frame decarbonizing our economy as a story of sacrifice, but one of getting a better life. Listening to that interview really changed how I think about the task ahead of us in dealing with climate change. 

Truck bloat is a real problem. It is also symptom of the same problem that gives us the gun extremists and the anti-maskers, and also I think the anti-vaxxers. This is the dark side of American individualism. If we are going to make any progress on our problems we will have to find a way to deal with this aspect of our culture.

Incidentally, my book club read a book that is both a really fun crime novel and an insightful look at the good and the bad of American individualism. I found it to be an engrossing read: American by Day, by Derek B. Miller. It is the second in a two book series, and I wish I'd read the first book first. It is called Norwegian by Night. I am still deciding if I want to read it since I know the outcome from having read the second book.

In less weighty news... Scalzi had some smart things to say about the Disney+ Mulan release

I think I need to start doing the "things that made me smile" section again, so here's what I have for this week:

This is delightful

This made me laugh:

I love this cake: 

This mama duck!

And here's your bunny for the week:

Have a good weekend!


  1. Anonymous4:12 PM

    Thank you. I was depressed.... you made it better.

    1. I am so glad the post helped! I confess to watching the prancing goats many, many times this week because they always made me smile and I needed that. Hang in there.

  2. Socal dendrite2:27 PM

    6 hours of remote school each day - yowsers! Our district is looking at 4 hours (8 - 1, including breaks) and I think that may be optimistic for my rising K and 2nd. But, like you, I think they really are trying hard to make something work in impossible circumstances.

    1. It is really only 4 hours of scheduled instruction - 2 hours is "independent study" and I am assuming that can happen whenever the kid wants and won't actually take 2 hours for all kids. But we'll see how it turns out.

  3. Love the Georgia O'Keefe cake design, but I have to say, the flowers aren't NEARLY vaginal enough to be considered truly "authentic" Georgia O'Keefe. ;-)

    Love the ducks. OMG 50 babies.

    I occasionally toy with the idea of getting a big SUV because we now live in an area with big snow. But then I am reminded that our Subaru Foresters are actually totally awesome in the snow, and I don't really need that kind of vehicle at all.

  4. I've entered a bit of a POW coping mentality: as hard as this is I keep thinking that it's going to be a long slog for much longer than anyone thinks. I'm not going to be looking forward to when it's going to get better because that anticipation and disappointment early on was harder than just hanging neutrally and being tired and frustrated but staying in the moment rather than looking forward to something better.

    Because I do agree with you that the best solutions simply aren't options unless and until we have another administration in AND have a different Congress and frankly I cannot hold my breath hoping for that to happen. So I have to keep thinking of things we can do today for people on an individual level and stay focused on the few things we can do something about.

    Parenting a child who needs a whole lot of attention while we both work has been a constant challenge eased only by the fact that PiC's work is more flexible than mine right now and he's doing his work after bedtime. And yet somehow it always feels like we don't have nearly enough time on the weekends. I guess we can take that as a sign that we're actually observing weekends again instead of letting the days smush into each other.


Sorry for the CAPTCHA, folks. The spammers were stealing too much of my time.