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POV: What My Family and I Learned from Losing Our Mother to COVID-19

Jo Anne Swart, was an RN/nurse practitioner whose area of expertise was death and dying. She died of COVID-19 on December 8 at the age of 87. Photo courtesy Wendy Swart Grossman

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POV: What My Family and I Learned from Losing Our Mother to COVID-19 A 12-step guide for those facing the same crisis

This past November, what had been a story of other people and an inconvenience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic became tragically real when my mother, Jo Anne Swart, was diagnosed with COVID-19. She died from the virus on December 8, at age 87. But I don’t want her story to be a tragic one, because that is not who Mom is, or was. Her story—our story—is of a loving family scattered across the country in three time zones who pulled together to support our sick mom using all our talents to make sense, make room, and make meaning out of death in the time of a pandemic.

Our mom was an RN/nurse practitioner whose area of expertise was death and dying. Yes, Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ seminal work, On Death and Dying, was on the kitchen table throughout much of our childhood. Mom and Elizabeth taught us well. I am writing this because, like my mom, I need to be helpful. I like to share what I have learned (and am learning). Should you find yourself in a situation similar to ours, perhaps some of the lessons we learned over the course of our mother’s illness and dying will help you, too.

1. Create a response team group text 

For us, this included the three siblings and the eldest adult grandchild. (It really helps if the eldest grandchild is also a grief therapist. Yes, she really is, and what a gift that turned out to be!) In addition to sharing updates and logistics, share pictures, share stupid jokes, share what you’re feeling.

2. Designate one person each day to interface with the nurse’s station and disseminate that info through the response team group text 

The last thing you want to do is overwhelm the incredible nursing staff with multiple people calling to get the same updates and information.

3. Designate more than one person with a medical power of attorney 

Decisions happen fast and this way more than one person can be available to the medical staff when things like the “We need permission to call 911” call comes in.

4. Research hospice places early on 

Be prepared, because once you get an end-of-life designation, the hospital wants your loved one out of there ASAP, as they need the bed for the next COVID-19 patient. Sad but true.

5. Find a hospice room that’s adjacent to an outdoor space if possible

We were lucky. My mother was dying in December, but she lived in Arizona. The hospice room had an attached patio. My eldest brother, who flew the one and a half hours from San Francisco to Phoenix, camped out on the patio so he could be at least 10 feet away from mom, double-masked, outside. But she knew he was there.

6. Technology is your friend

My brother was able to set up his laptop on an outdoor patio chair and zoom the camera in so we could see mom in her bed. He also had a portable speaker that could go next to mom’s bed so she could hear our voices. Hearing is the last sense to go.

7. Outsource a facilitator or death doula if you want to have a vigil bedside 

We are a spiritual but mostly agnostic family, and while we are all high-functioning folks who know our way around a facilitation, we couldn’t do this for our own mother/grandmother. If you belong to a temple/church/synagogue/mosque, there are prescribed rituals and people to call. We knew we needed someone to facilitate, to take charge, to hold space, and give us permission to grieve. We had a glorious death doula who facilitated a two-hour bedside vigil for mom.

8. Music is a transportive vehicle

But singing together on Zoom, as we discovered, doesn’t work due to the lag. Arrange for one person to sing and you can play music through your computer. Another option is Threshold Choir, a singing group that sings specifically for those on the threshold of dying. You can download music for free off their website.

9. Talk directly to the dying

Say your loved one’s  name. Cover them with verbal hugs and gentle strokes. Massage their feet with your stories. Hold their hand and trace their palms with your beautiful memories.

10. Have a plan in place for what to do with your loved one’s remains 

Given the pandemic, COVID-19 patients’ bodies are moved quickly from the hospice to the morgue, so know if cremation or burial is their/your choice.

11. What to know about funerals during a pandemic

Our family will have an in-person service when it is safe, but that is six-plus months from now. Think about what you need immediately following your family member’s death. I felt the need to gather whoever wanted to join me for an evening of virtual storytelling over Zoom,  sharing stories about mom while drinking her favorite beverages—vodka tonics, diet Coke, and frappuccinos. 

12. Everyone grieves differently

Some people grieve with laughter, some with tears. Others grieve with music, some by compartmentalizing. Don’t pass judgment. Grief is a process that we aren’t really in charge of, but we can give ourselves room and pay attention. For now, I will make myself a cup of tea.

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Pov: Modeling Shows Us What Can Happen. Our Choices Determine What Will Happen.

POV: Modeling Shows Us What Can Happen. Our Choices Determine What Will Happen.

Eric Kolaczyk is director of Boston University’s Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering. He and other scientists have developed a mathematical and computational model of BU’s campus to guide the University’s reopening plan and be used as a tool to identify any future signs of uncontrolled COVID-19 spread.


POV: Modeling Shows Us What Can Happen. Our Choices Determine What Will Happen. “The most fundamental aspects of COVID are quite dependable: without precautions, infected people will infect other people”

People all over the world have been working ceaselessly to help our global society get through the current pandemic. My own small contribution for the past few months has been to spearhead a team at Boston University responsible for mathematical modeling and simulation to inform the reopening of the University in an appropriate manner for the fall 2023 semester. It has been a task simultaneously exhausting and invigorating, inspiring and humbling. It has also been just plain sobering.

In a nutshell, as reported here, our work supports the conclusion that there is a reasonable path forward for reopening BU this fall while containing COVID-19 infections at levels comparable to the rest of the Greater Boston area. Our efforts even suggest we can manage if things get somewhat worse in the Boston area as a whole. But, ultimately, these are just possibilities, not promises. They depend on our individual choices to become reality. 

In modeling, you make assumptions. We made three types of assumptions in this exercise, about:

the types of contacts people will have;

the way COVID-19 will propagate as a result of those contacts; and

the interventions we will employ to control that propagation.

The second set of assumptions is about the disease itself. And although there is much we still don’t know about this disease, there is a substantial amount that we do know and which can be reliably incorporated into a model. On the other hand, the first and third sets of assumptions are most fundamentally about our behavior. Those are the ones that have kept me up at night.

Those assumptions boil down to expectations of the BU population. Expectations that we will collectively and individually act responsibly. Expectations that some of the world’s brightest students, faculty, and staff will make choices consistent with an overwhelming amount of experience and science. Specifically, expectations that we will attest when we feel sick, get tested when we are supposed to, wear masks, physically distance, and so on. And expectations that we will make those same right choices over and over again, for as long as it takes, until we all get through this—together.

To reiterate, the most fundamental aspects of COVID are quite dependable: without precautions, infected people will infect other people. Put another way, if COVID were a train, it would in many ways, unfortunately, be the very best of trains—running as expected, right on schedule. These results of poor choices we have seen are entirely expected, and as is the case in so many infectious diseases, it takes everyone making good choices to ensure a safe community.  

Colin Powell, retired four-star general and former US Secretary of State, is quoted as having said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” We have a unique opportunity to succeed in reopening BU this fall, with Boston area infection rates currently among the lowest in the nation and an institutional capacity to test our community members at a volume and frequency unavailable most anywhere else. This opportunity is the result of an enormous amount of preparation, on the one hand, and on the other hand, of our learning from others’ successes and, yes, failures. But to capitalize on this requires hard work. From each and every one of us. Every single day.

Or, as the BU student-led campaign has put it, with vulgar eloquence: F*ck it won’t cut it.  

Be your best selves, BU. Make all of your choices the right choices.

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What Every Business Should Have Learned From The 2008 Recession

The coronavirus crisis has hit everyone hard. Families, businesses, and governments around the world are all struggling to deal with the crisis and its many ramifications.

And there’s no doubt that individuals and institutions have taken multiple hits, which will have a ripple effect. Added to all this there’s the uncertainty about the future. What will it look like, and how will we get there?

As a business owner, should you have been prepared for this crisis? The last time that a global pandemic on this scale happened, it was the Spanish Flu in 1918, over a hundred years ago.

No country, let alone any single business, has been prepared to handle this crisis. However, there have been enough events in recent times that should have acted as warnings for businesses and alerted them to be prepared to handle extreme stresses, whatever form they may take.

Every crisis is different, but there are some important things that all businesses should have learnt from the 2008 stock market crash and the severe economic dislocation that followed.

What we should have learned from 2008

The crash of 2008 has many important lessons for businesses today, and it’s not too late to learn. The lockdowns imposed across the country in fact offer an opportunity to reflect on these lessons.

Some of these are: having the ability to weather stresses and downturns, looking out for your employees to improve the chances and quality of the recovery, using the power of technology to innovate and survive, and to create new opportunities.

And for those feeling utterly overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis, there’s one more important lesson: don’t give up hope. We survived the 2008 crisis and we will survive this one. The real challenge is to shape the recovery in such a form that we will be prepared for the future.

The unthinkable can happen

In a relatively short period of time, we’ve witnessed some epic disasters which could be called Black Swan events, that no one could have predicted. These would include the 911 attacks, Hurricane Katrina and other destructive storms, the stock market crash and housing crisis of 2008, and the Great Recession. There have been periodic outbreaks of deadly diseases like SARS, Ebola and the H1N1 flu around the world.

But is it actually true that these could not have been predicted? And if we missed the signs in the past, what can we learn from them now? If these events have taught us anything, it is to be prepared for disasters on an unimaginable scale.

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Misfortunes don’t come singly

The 2008 crisis began with the banks failing because of over-leveraged subprime mortgages. It was followed by the stock market crash which wiped out substantial chunks of wealth and decimated retirement funds.

But it didn’t end there. Job losses, foreclosures and the drying up of credit hit the economy across the board. Homelessness and suicide rates increased and good, high-paying jobs were slowly replaced with low-paying, low-skilled work.

The consequence, as we’re seeing today in the wake of the pandemic, was a cascading series of disasters, where each event led to a series of further problems. Because all sectors of the economy are linked, no one was safe from the consequences.

We live in one world

For better or worse, the world today is linked more closely than ever before through economic, social and political links. We can no longer assume that a crisis in another part of the world will not affect us, our economic arrangements and even our daily lives.

Which is why the best hope for a more secure future is to work towards greater international cooperation.

Too big to fail is a recipe for disaster

For individuals and businesses, it’s never a good idea to be overextended. And that old adage about saving for a rainy day could help many tide over at least a few months of bad times. While the federal government has tried to bail out different industries, this assistance can only be a drop in the bucket.

This does not mean that you should shelve your plans for future expansion indefinitely. However, you should grow your business from a strong financial footing. Secure financials are the basis for a strong business.

Be ready to pivot to new opportunities

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A weak recovery is not much of a recovery

The recovery after the Great Recession of 2008 was a very lopsided one, and it left many people behind. Those with lower paying jobs with few savings and resources didn’t see much of an upturn, with wages remaining low and few opportunities. This meant that the economy and society as a whole were less well placed to deal with the new shock to the system delivered by the coronavirus crisis.

Going forward, this lesson needs to be taken on board by businesses as well as policy makers. In the pandemic, people in what are seen as some of the least skilled and lowest paying jobs have turned out to be the most essential workers, even as they are also the most exposed.

For businesses, treating workers as a resource instead of just an expense is crucial to maintaining a healthy and resilient workforce.

Investing in your workers through training, skills and leadership development and ensuring their health and well-being is an investment in the welfare of your business and its future success. It’s also crucial to building a more resilient economy and society.

Innovate to survive

Given that we could be a long time returning to normal shopping practices, this could be a good time to expand your retail operations online, and retrain your staff to provide them the necessary skills.

We will get through this

With multiple burdens of responsibility to your business, family, employees and others, it can be difficult to hold on to an optimistic outlook. But looking back at the 2008 recession, we see that recovery is possible. We will get through this, but the question is in what kind of shape. Will we be better prepared for the future and whatever it holds?

If you own or run a business in 2023, you are most likely going to see a downturn in business as we hit this next recession. You can try these things to help you increase your business.

Redesign your Logo: This is a quick way to attract some attention and possibly gain some new customers.Improve your logo by making it simple and creative.

Discount: You can discount your goods or service to get new business.

Online Presence: Increase your online visibility by redesigning your website and working on SEO.

Cut labor: You might have to lean up and get rid of some employees to build your business back up.

Hit the road: Get back to the basics and pass out flyers to people and businesses in your city.

Every crisis is different, but there are some important lessons to be learned from each one. The 2008 recession should have taught businesses to be resilient, to operate from a strong financial base, to treat workers as a resource and an investment, and to see innovation as the route to survival. It’s not too late to learn these and to put them into practice going forward into an uncertain future.


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I Survived My First Day Without My Apple Watch

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done before. I forgot to put my Apple Watch on when I left the house for work. That meant being about 14 hours without my watch. over half a day with no wearable notifications, or fitness tracking, or quick replies to messages. For the first time since April 24th, I was Apple Watchless.

And I was kind of pleased.

The reason was that I now had chance to see just how used to the Apple Watch I had become. My failing memory had given me the opportunity to spend a working day away from the Apple Watch to find out just how engrained it was in my daily life, and importantly, whether I would miss it or not.

At first, apart from my initial irritation that I managed to forget to pick it up, I didn’t miss the Apple Watch at all. Before it arrived a month ago, I hadn’t worn a watch in around 8 years so not having one strapped to my arm wasn’t as alien as it might be for some. I suppose that’s how I managed to forget it in the first place, because if I was more used to having a watch on, I might have noticed it was missing sooner. Whatever the ins and outs of the situation, I was facing a day without my Apple Watch, checking my iPhone for notifications like some sort of animal.

Oh the indignity!

Initially, I didn’t really notice that I didn’t have my Apple Watch with me. Sure, I was conscious of the fact that I was pressing the Home button of my iPhone to check the time or for notifications while it sat on the desk, but that was it. The sky didn’t fall in, my arm didn’t fall off, and the world kept on spinning even while my Apple Watch sat on the shelf at home.

But then I started receiving messages and Twitter replies as a couple of conversations sparked. My iPhone started bleeping with alarming regularity and I found myself checking it more often than I really needed to, but I felt compelled to because it was shouting at me. Like a baby crying, it’s impossibly difficult to ignore an iPhone which is so desperate for your attention.

And then I realized that the Apple Watch would have stopped all that. Instead of all the distracting noises and perceived requirement to check notifications, the Apple Watch would have tapped me on the wrist and then gone away, keen to let me finish what I was doing. The Apple Watch is so much better at letting you know that sure, there’s something for you to look at, but you can do it on your own terms. No need to stop everything to find out that someone has sent you a message on Twitter.

There are offshoots of this too. When I was checking notifications on my iPhone, I found myself replying to tweets or messages when I didn’t need to because they could have waited. What’s worse is I then ended up browsing Twitter or tapping a link that took me further away from what I was meant to be doing. People talk about the Apple Watch reducing distractions but it’s true, it really does.

At the end of the day I went home with my initial beliefs confirmed. The Apple Watch is not something any of us need, and not having one isn’t going to ruin your life by any stretch of the imagination. If you do have one though, I’m willing to bet that you’ll feel a little off should you not wear it for a day. You might not be able to quite put your finger on what’s wrong at first, but it will dawn on you soon enough. The Apple Watch has found a little hole in my world and while it’s not going to change lives, just plugging that hole can make a difference.

I’m still not convinced that apps are the Apple Watch’s forte, and that may never change even when “real apps” arrive after WWDC, but if receiving notifications of things happening and then triaging the resulting information sounds like something you do a lot of, then the Apple Watch may just fill a hole for you as well.

If you own an Apple Watch and have worn it every day for a couple of weeks at least, I challenge you to go a day without it and see how you get on. I’m not going to say that people don’t know what they’ve got until it’s gone, but I have a sneaky suspicion most will want to make sure they put their Apple Watch on the next day.

I know I did.

What Audiobook Apps Should I Use On My Windows 10, 8 Pc?

What audiobook apps should I use on my Windows 10, 8 PC?






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readers this month.

When have you read your last book? With our busy schedules and hectic lives we hardly have the time anymore to sit down and enjoy old and new authors. However, the miracle of technology comes up with a solution. Even if you don’t have time to broaden your cultural views, it doesn’t mean all is lost. Have you tried audiobooks so far? Audiobook give you the freedom of not being focus only on the object – namely the book.

You can do chores around the house or walk around town and at the same time listen to a voice reading to you Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace”. Windows 8, Windows 10 and Windows RT users have at their disposal a few apps that will help them browse easily through the most intriguing titles and allow them to select the most interesting novels and scientific literature out there. Here’s a bunch we thought might be useful for you.

Best Windows 10, 8 audiobook apps

The Audible Windows 8, Windows 10 app (which we have reviewed) has been released by a company belonging to the Amazon family and offers a wide range of audio book choices. Learn to multi task and listen to the newest and most exciting books while on the go. If you prefer classics, the app has that too. The books are downloadable to any device via Wi-Fi. You can shop at the Audible store.

I for one was always a sucker for fairy tales and their dark twisted morals. This app will definitely appeal to fans of the Brothers Grimm. It offers the ability to choose and listen to a collection of some lesser known fairy tales written by them like “The Golden Bird” or “The Twelve Dancing Princessess”

Expert tip:

However, this online library functions just like a real one, you can download the books onto your machine but the titles have an expiration date or a borrowing period. OverDrive offers the possibility of users downloading digital books in the EPUB format, not only audio ones. You can find libraries browsing by countries and cities. Start updating your library today!

Avid readers can start listening to the first chapter of the book, while the others are still in the downloading process, ensuring that no time is lost.

Where is Librivox in Windows 10, 8?

An audiobook app that has been proved to be very popular with users is Librivox. The application features more than 5000 public domain audiobooks recorded by volunteers. Books can be browsed by genre, authors and language. Unfortunately Windows 8, Windows 10 users don’t have access yet to this up, only Windows Phone ones. Surely enough the app will come soon to Microsoft’s newest operating system.

Meanwhile, you can download this third-party Windows 10 Librivox app called English Audio Books – Librivox. The app features more than 3000 audiobooks and also includes the texts of the respective books. If English is not your mother tongue, you can use this app to improve your listening skills. The app also features an English Dictionary with samples and sounds and lets you search your favorite books in the LibriVox catalog.

If you are a book lover, and you don’t mind consuming books in a different format other than audio, then I would suggest you to check out some of the best eBook readers that you will find for Windows 10.


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Can I Shower With My Apple Watch?

Ok, so you probably know that your Apple Watch is supposed to be waterproof, but is it OK to shower with your watch on? Maybe you’re wondering if showering with your watch on is actually a good way to clean it, assuming you’re wearing a sporty band.

In this article we will talk about whether or not it’s OK to shower with your Apple Watch on. We will also give some more general info about your Apple Watch’s water resistance, and what you should do after exposing your watch to water. For the purposes of this article, we will assume you have an Apple Watch Series 2 or later. Prior to Series 2, Apple Watches were water resistant to things like splashes and spills, but they weren’t designed to be submerged.

Showering with Apple Watch Showering vs Swimming

You might think if you can swim with an Apple Watch, surely you can wear it in the shower too. Well, maybe, but when you shower with your Apple Watch, you want to be careful about things coming into contact with your watch that aren’t water – for example, soap and shampoo; Most people will be using some kind of product while they are in the shower, and there is a chance that these non-water products could damage your watch. The best way to clean your Apple Watch is with water and a soft cloth.

Apple Watch’s Water Resistance

Apple Watch Series 2 and later are rated to be water resistant up to 50 meters (164 ft).

Things that can Affect your Watch’s Water Resistance

In general, Apple Watch is considered to be water resistant, although Apple warns that there are things which could affect your watch’s water resistance:

Dropping your watch, or otherwise smashing it into something.

Getting various products on your watch, such as soaps, cleaners, fruit juice, sunscreen and bug spray, and other personal care products.

Anything that exposes your watch to strong jets of water, such as water sports.

Exposure to steam, like in a steam room or sauna.

After Exposing your Apple Watch to Water

If you have gone swimming with your Apple Watch, or even if you have just done a lot of sweating, you can rinse your watch in clean tap water and then dry with a soft cloth. Don’t use anything else to dry your watch, such as a hair dryer or compressed air (like the kind you would use to spray the dust off your keyboard).

Clearing Water from your Watch

After swimming or submerging your watch in water, you may need to eject water from your watch. If you set a swimming workout on your watch, the screen will automatically be locked during your workout and turning the Digital Crown when you are done will unlock the screen and eject water from your watch. If you need to clear water from your watch when you haven’t used a swimming workout:

Open Control Center on your watch by swiping up on the screen.

Scroll until you see the button with the water drop on it, then tap on it.

Your watch face will reappear, with a little water drop at the top.

Turn the Digital Crown – a graphic will appear on your screen – keep turning until the graphic is full and you hear a beeping noise.

If your watch has gotten some water in one or more of the ports, you may notice that your watch’s sound is muffled; If you have already ejected any water from your watch, this should improve on its own by simply allowing enough time for the water to evaporate out of the affected port.

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