Friday, March 10, 2023

Friendly reminder: Masks work

Since we are going to be dealing with COVID-19 for a while to come, it's useful to remind readers that the overwhelming evidence is that masks (especially N-95) work quite well. As we've known for a long while, COVID-19 is transmitted through airborne particles. Thankfully, we don't have to worry about fomites for that particular virus. The article I linked to offers plenty of evidence about how the virus spreads, including the current Omicron variant and subvariants, which are highly transmissible. There's some advice for reusing N-95 masks, which is helpful, given their expense. You will want to refresh your supply regularly. Even a poorly fitting N-95 mask is far better than being unmasked if there are people in the vicinity who have COVID-19. Chances are you're probably less likely to be exposed if you are outdoors than indoors, and while indoors, good ventilation matters. 

Masks, like other mitigation measures, became needlessly politicized in 2020, and we are paying the price globally as a consequence. Prevention measures generally are good common sense. If you can keep your face covered, you reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 and transmitting COVID-19. That's a good thing. If you have the ability to physically distance when there is an outbreak (as there will continue to be for a while), you're better off doing so. Even though fomites are not an issue, I'd still advocate for good hand hygiene. Ultimately, though, you have to figure out your own situation and how much risk you can afford to take. Those with pre-existing health conditions or who are young at heart but not so much chronologically should probably mask up at minimum, at least indoors. If you can get vaccinated, it is in your best interest to do so. For the record, my spouse and I have both had our original two COVID vaccines, and any subsequent boosters made available to us. They're no guarantee, and I know my spouse did test positive for COVID-19 in early December 2022. However, thanks to detecting it early and getting her on Paxlovid, she had minimal symptoms and avoided hospitalization (and this is someone who can easily get bronchitis or pneumonia). 

Stick to solid science. Tune out the demagogues. You'll be better off, and so will anyone else in your life.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Welcome to another new year

Image Source: Getty Images

Another calendar year has come and gone. In many ways, it was a busy year. I have spent much of my time in the classroom (physically and virtually), have scored AP Psychology free recall question responses in person for the first time since 2019, and have chaired or attended my share of committee meetings. I attended a virtual conference with small-time social science organization that has been part of my extended family for a long time, and presented a paper on the replication crisis in the behavioral and social sciences. I caught portions of the SIPS conference, since I could attend virtually. I'm thinking my days of bankrolling a lot of travel for conferences are numbered, if not simply over. I don't have the personal budget, and my university (like similar comprehensive public regional universities) is too cash-strapped, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. I continue to adjunct, and probably will over the next few years unless circumstances change for the better.

This past year was one where, in spite of the chaos, I came to terms with some stark realities about my career. It's safe to say that the days when I could at least delude myself into thinking I could make one more move into the R-2 institutions and have at least some access to resources needed to do the work I had once set out to do are over, finished, kaput. It's pretty obvious if one checks any of my research profiles that I am just not all that prolific an author these days. I've put off projects that once upon a time would have excited me. 2022 was the year when I simply faced up to the fact that I just wasn't that person anymore. It's been a long journey, but I find some peace with the acceptance of my current circumstances. I won't have the resources, such as lab space, to run experiments, or even participate in multi-lab experiments or studies. I won't have the resources to bring undergraduate students to academic conferences. Within the confines of my limited resources, I can do a few other things, such as prepare students to be savvy consumers of research. I can help prepare them to use the skills they learn along the way in whatever career or vocation they end up choosing as time passes. As my own department changes, I can do what I can to shape and implement its vision. That's about it, really. 

With a plan to retire sometime between 70 and 75, I have about 13-18 years left to do what I can as an educator to leave my little corner of the psychological sciences in a better place. After that? My first publications were poems and haiku. I'll most likely go back to that, and focus much more on landscape photography. In the meantime, I'll keep this blog going, for any who might be interested. I still have plenty to say about the state of the science of psychology, and of the academic world itself.