Free Time During a Pandemic

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During the day, I remotely continue my work at Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Libraries. I manage a group of software developers working on two main projects: CurateND Here’s an article about the impact of CurateND for our campus researchers. and MARBLE You can visit MARBLE’s project homepage for the current outward facing documentation. . I also contribute to the Samvera Project.

Those are some of my work day obligations. Once that wraps up, I’ve struggled to find direction and energy. We often hear about Fight or Flight, but forget to mention the two other responses faint and freeze.

While sheltering in place during raging pandemic and a grifting narcissist demagogue clouding and confusing any coherent federal response, I’ve not had a desire to read books. Normally, by this time of the year I’d have finished up about 15 books. Right now, I’ve finished eight.

I have found little energy to play tabletop RPGs* online. First, our family has a schedule for online meetings so we don’t overlap and overload our terrible internet connectivity; On a good day we’re getting 1MBps* download speeds.

Also, per the nature of my work, I participate and facilitate several meetings per day; I’m afraid an online game would feel too much like one of those meetings.

What I’m Up To

So I have turned to the following:

  • Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Samvera Community Contributions
  • “Lost Ship” by W.M. Akers
  • “Italian Folktales” by Italo Calvino
  • Journaling

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

About 6 weeks ago, my step-daughter asked about splitting the cost of a Switch. For years I’d considered picking one up, but never could justify the purchase. With her interested, I figured why not?

We bought a Switch and I borrowed my son’s game of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I played a lot Nintendo64’s Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. When my son was 4, he’d sit on my lap and watch me play.

I’ve spent several evenings exploring the open world. Marveling at the apparent history of a world told first by ruinous scenes but later by people and places.

Samvera Community Contributions

For the last seven years, I’ve contributed to the Samvera project. Working on a common project, I have developed many friends from around the world.

In the evening, I’ve done some idle housekeeping type work on the project: Minting a new release of Hyrax, added a bit of inline documentation, and updated some variable names (among other things).

I find comfort in contributing to something that I’ve helped build with these friends. I frame each pull request, comment, or touch point on Slack as small “Thinking of You” notes.

“Lost Ship” by W.M. Akers

I learned about W.M. Akers’s “Lost Ship” in a Slack group. Curious about solo-gaming, I went ahead and purchased a digital copy on DriveThruRPG.

I printed out the reference sheets and played a game. What an amazing little solo-game that emulates the feel of Battlestar Galactica.

Your colony ship and scouts explore system after system, facing enemies, gathering resources, and ultimately trying to find a new home world. You, the player, act as the fleet commander. You layout your strategy and roll dice to resolve. Luck always plays a factor.

Each time my ship jumped into a new system and detected an enemy, I looked to the scout roster and felt feelings akin to “Once more, into the breech.”

Stories began emerging around each of these named scout pilots. Yet they were fragile.

In one playthrough, Freya, a scout pilot, wracked up 14 kills over 13 jumps. Freya was the surviving hotshot from the first jump. And in volley 14, an enemy destroyed her ship and killed her.

I’m now eyeing Deadball, another game by W.M. Akers. It’s a baseball dice game for one or two players.

“Italian Folktales” by Italo Calvino

Earlier this year, I read “The Origins of Creativity” by Edward O Wilson. In it he wrote about storytelling, in particular around the camp fire. This has sat deeply in my mind. Especially this quote from a Di/xao elder:

Our old people long ago had a government, and it was an ember from the fire where we last lived which we used to light the fire at the new place we were going.

Our collective stories, carry us forward. And in this moment, I wanted to find some of those collective stories (or at least the structures).

So I decided to return to my copy of “Italian Folktales” by Italo Calvino and “One Thousand and One Arabian Nights.”

Each of these collections provide compact stories, 2 to 4 pages long, that follow well-established structures and reliance on powerful and rich symbols.

I have found one or two folktales each night to be a richly satisfying read before I drift to sleep.

Journaling

I’ve been writing reflections and observations in my personal journal. This writing is important, especially as the world changes. It is our written first-hand daily accounts that help us remember how things were.

To remain our understanding of the context of that moment. These writings are especially important to help differentiate between past norms and current norms.

Conclusion

While I shelter-in-place, recognizing that I’m in a faint response, I wanted to share some of my approaches to coping with the current deluge of change and clarifying views into the gross underpinnings of a cruel world order.

I want to make sure that I have the energy necessary to help move this world towards a more just and compassionate world. And the forces of malignancy and injustice are ever gathering.

Perhaps it’s time to read more Albert Camus, in particular “The Plague” and “Resistance, Rebellion, and Death.”