I pride myself on making conscious efforts to make my course materials a bit more accessible. I try to get captions on videos I use. We host our videos on Kaltura, and you can request captions, done by a machine, but if you have the time, you can edit them. I’ve even learned in the past week how to have somebody else edit the machine-made captions: click on Edit (pencil icon), and then in the Collaborations tab, select Media Collaborators. In the pop-up window, make that person a Co-Publisher, and they can then follow the regular process for editing captions. I tried it out with our trustworthy admin, and she will do the odd lecturette in future, with me checking the final edit for East Asian terminology. Great time saver! I also try to make PDFs of course materials machine-readable (OCR, Optical Character Recognition). All of this takes time, but it is worth it: students on low bandwidth can look at the transcript and get the main points without seeing the video; non-native speakers of English can more easily search for translations or definitions of unknown words, and I have seen many students highlight and annotate the PDFs to prepare for class.
I use ABBYY Finereader for this. It works quite well, and it recognizes a ton of languages, including Chinese, Japanese and Korean (CJK) by simply selecting them in the “Document Languages” tab. Last week I had set this to Korean, to convert a Korean article. I’d forgotten about that; so when Finereader suggested I “set the correct recognition language” or whatever warning popped up, I just went “yeah, whatever, just click yes”. Sometimes the machine doesn’t know what to do with older fonts, or mixed English-CJK text, and it actually does the English fine. I thought that was the case. Turns out I spent about 20 mins sticking PDFs for this week’s course materials through the machine to have them come out as strings of gibberish with the odd Korean hangeul thrown in, instead of searchable English text. 🤦🏻♀️
At that point, I decided to go for a run, to reset my mind, and to get some fresh air. Last December I bought myself a Garmin Forerunner 245. I wanted a Forerunner since I first heard about them shortly after I got into distance running in 2007, and it is pretty much everything I wanted it to be, and then some. It also came with handy training programs from different coaches, and after working my way successfully through a 10K I thought I’d try a half marathon plan.
Last week I realized that the schedule with four runs every week, and increasingly longer ones at that, was too much pressure, and I put the program on pause. I went for daily walks in the neighbourhood instead. Today I decided to get back into it. The progression run on offer was hard, but good: 5 min warm up, 20 mins easy pace, then 10 mins significantly faster, finishing up with a 5 min cool down. It made me feel alive. This self-induced shortness of breath is the only type I want to experience. It feels good, because I know it will go away as soon as I stop, and it’s designed to increase my endurance. From all accounts I’ve seen, Covid19’s shortness of breath is very scary, and doesn’t go away. So I keep up with the self-isolation and minimal contact with the outside world. I now can’t remember the last time I touched another human being.