Online Diversions and Distractions in this 8th month of Sheltering in-Place

By Sheila McCormick

Trivia Nights are nice diversions for an hour or two. You can join with friends, as a team, or be assigned to a team. I think joining randomly assigned teams is fun, and it also makes it more likely that the team members will know more things. For example, my Skype Scientist team won! (Latin teacher, Biology teacher, engineer, me). In each case, the questions are presented, then the teams are sent to breakout rooms to discuss and then submit their answers. Of the options below, I found the Atlas Obscura questions to be the most challenging.

  • AARP has live trivia nights or pub polls on Fridays at 4 pm. Free.  Click on this link to sign in. 
  • Atlas Obscura has trivia nights every Friday, also at 4 pm. $7.  Click on this link to participate. 
  • Skype a Scientist is a nice program that connects scientists with school teachers and their classes. They host trivia nights on Thursdays at 5 p.m. $5. Click on this link to join in. 

Cartooning Workshops are hosted live every Friday evening by The Believer Magazine. Previous workshops can be viewed on this YouTube link. The nice thing about the live workshops is that there is time at the end for participants to show their cartoons. I have not tried very many yet, but especially enjoyed Creating Comics Without Words, with Jonathan Hill. There were a series of prompts for each panel: 1) draw someone walking down the street; 2) they see a box; 3) they open the box. And so on. As you can see, I am not much of an artist!

The Getty Museum has some fun activities online, including:

The Science and Entertainment Exchange of the National Academy of Sciences connects entertainment people with scientists. They host a series of conversations on Zoom. You can sign up to be notified about future events, and view past events HERE. I thought two of those conversations:  This Too Shall Pass: Creativity in the Time of Covid-19 and A Series of Fortunate Events, were especially interesting.

On-line volunteer opportunities:

  • Two opportunities that were cited by Atlas Obscura are worth a look. For example, you can become a “Citizen Scientist at Home” by staring out your window at distant galaxies. Details are at this link. Alternatively, you can assist archivists and librarians by transcribing documents at home, such as a treasure trove of 19th-century New England whaling logs. Details are HERE.  
  • One thing I have been doing (even pre-Covid-19) is to volunteer with American Corporate Partners (ACP). This non-profit facilitates the transition from military careers to civilian ones. I help by editing CVs, cover letters, etc. Very rewarding and not much effort.

Berkeley Rep hosts book clubs about individual plays. Participants read the script (or in some cases, watch the performance) in advance and then discuss with other play lovers and Berkeley Rep staff on Zoom. The next play in the schedule is Our Town by Thornton Wilder. Four sessions are scheduled – each of which is limited to 35 participants: Monday, November 9 at 6:30 pm or 8 pm and Tuesday, November 10 at noon or 1:30 pm. Register HERE.

The Ghost Quartet, a somewhat confusing but lovely play by Dave Malloy, was the subject of this past week’s discussion. It can be viewed at this YouTube link and the annotated lyrics are HERE.

Oakland Public Library: There aren’t very many online library events these days, but they can be viewed HERE.

One event that looks particularly interesting is a discussion on November 25th at 6 pm (that will include the author) of Golden Gate Jumpers Survivors Society, a short story collection by Ross Wilcox.

Editor’s Note: After eight years, Sheila recently stepped down as a Board Member of the Friends of the Oakland Public Library, which prompted the Library Director, Jamie Turbak, to say this:

I want to thank Sheila for her invaluable support to the library through her service on the Friends of the OPL Board. I sincerely hope that Sheila will continue to be involved with the library in whatever way suits her interests and her schedule. Her help will always be welcomed and appreciated!

The full text of a “special edition” of the Off The Shelf newsletter honoring Sheila is available HERE.

Sheila McCormick is an Adjunct Professor Emerita in Cal’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Prior to her retirement in January 2016, she had a research lab at the USDA/ARS-UC-Berkeley Plant Gene Expression Center in Albany, studying the molecular biology of plant reproduction.

Sheila has been a frequent contributor to the Splash Pad News, beginning with a series of seven neighborhood walks – the first of which was posted in April 2017. She also regularly helps with editing and serves in an advisory capacity.