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Mathematicians from Oxford University said putting groups of six in the shapes was space-efficient and could help people maintain the UK’s strict two-metre social distancing rule.

If you live in chaos, you can get a decent cardio workout just by tidying, moving things at speed off the floor of one room and into another

A couple of years ago, I was trying to place the entire fitness industry on the arc of feminism, with my friend who’s an aerobics teacher. What does it mean, if we’re all dropping a load of time and money trying to hone our glutes? Is it straight objectification? (Must look better to fit society’s view of female form! Must be best self to maximise market value in a neoliberal frame!) Or is it a story of emancipation and strength? (I don’t need a man – I can push over a car using only my thighs.) She said, “You’re partly looking at an aerobics class full of women who no longer do their own housework. The amount of physical activity is the same in a class, it’s just that nothing gets any cleaner.” So really it was more of a Marxist question than a feminist one, but never mind that now.

What I’ve been ruminating on recently is the question: is the amount of energy you expend cleaning the same as an aerobics class? Well, one: only if you plan it to be. Two: there will be gaps in the workout, but you can fill those with bodyweight bolt-ons. Three: cleaning demands – craves – music, because it otherwise drops to a sedate pace. I’d even suggest making some 20-minute 160BPM playlists. (I’ve got a musicals playlist, and everyone hates it: my mister because he hates musicals, the children because they say every time they hear The Greatest Showman, they know I’m going to be in a really self-righteous mood. This doesn’t deter me, as I am possessed by my own righteousness.) Continue reading…

Millennials are said to be more narcissistic than any other cohort of society. A self-confessed self-obsessive works out whether that’s a problem

I was on the phone to a friend recently, blathering away as usual, when I realised that there was no one on the other end of the line. How long ago had this happened? I checked my phone and discovered, to my horror, that the call had ended almost five minutes ago.

In the pub with another friend, not long after this incident, I asked how self-obsessed she thinks I am – a question only self-obsessed people ask, along with our other hobbies: stalking ourselves on social media and planning our own funerals. Without deliberation, she concluded that I was an 8.5 out of 10. “OK…” I reeled, deeply offended. “But I ask about you too, right? I am a good friend?” Quickly, the subject was changed. Continue reading…

Increases in coronavirus-like illnesses weren’t apparent until March in places like New York, California and Washington, but a new CDC analysis suggests it was here a month earlier.

In difficult times, it’s easy to feel at the mercy of big forces, but we’re more resourceful than we think

“What brings you here?” is the question, according to cliche, with which therapists always begin a first session with a client (or did, anyway, until sessions all moved on to Zoom). But in the 1970s, a therapist based in Milwaukee, Steve de Shazer, began to experiment with another approach. Instead of the standard question – which is pretty much destined to get clients detailing their problems – he started asking what not having problems would look like. Over time, one version of this inquiry became codified as the Miracle Question, which runs as follows: “Suppose that one night, while you were asleep, there was a miracle, and this problem was solved. How would you know? What would be different?”

To be honest, this sort of thing raises my hackles. It smacks of magical thinking, and positive visualisation, and somehow catapulting yourself out of the real circumstances of your life (including your rung on the economic ladder) into a realm of unalloyed bliss. But that wasn’t what happened. More often than not, Shazer’s clients came up with strikingly modest visions. In their imagined miracle worlds, one client might wake up and realise she looked forward to the day, instead of dreading it. Another would find that when she talked to her children, they responded; another might find herself standing up to a workplace bully. Continue reading…

Lockdown has reminded us of the pleasures of walking. But making small changes can boost its benefits to our health, mood and creativity, too

As a form of physical activity, it is easy to dismiss walking as, well, pedestrian. But now its benefits, both physical and mental, are being appreciated once again. Under lockdown, daily walks became sacred. Now they are the safest way to commute, and, for those stuck at home, there is little place else to go other than to wander the streets, forests, towpaths, cemeteries and eerily deserted business quarters.

We have become nosy tourists in our own neighbourhoods. We seek out less-travelled backwaters, eyeing curiously the fragments of human and animal lives that we pass, gazing on seasonal changes like besotted new parents. But are we walking to the best of our abilities? Possibly not. Sports scientist Joanna Hall has dedicated her career to coaching people in how to walk the way their bodies were designed to, which no longer comes easily in this sedentary, screen-based era. Continue reading…


The coronavirus pandemic has forced schools across Japan to switch to online education, posing a challenge for institutions specialized in agricultural and fisheries studies, which need practical training that can’t be conducted online.

Amid the pandemic, students who are required to go through practical training, including on navigation so they can attain national qualifications, are not able to carry that out at present.

Most schools in the Kyushu region have resumed classes now the state of emergency has been lifted. However, teachers at schools offering practical training are worried whether they will be able to go through the necessary areas required for the national qualifications by the end of the academic year, which ends in March.

A comment recently posted on the website of the Kumamoto Agricultural High School, a prefecture-run institution in the city of Kumamoto, reads, “Even during the school closure, plants on our farm are growing quickly!”

Photos posted on the website also shows school teachers and staffers harvesting white radish. But absent from the photos are the students who sowed the seeds in March.

Third-year students at the high school traditionally use the harvested radish in a sports festival dancing program in May. But the sports event itself was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. The school has also canceled farming class sessions during which students were set to cultivate spring crops such as watermelon and tomatoes and harvest them in the summer.

The pandemic has also affected the school’s livestock handlers. Students enrolled in the school’s livestock breeding course take care of about 500 chickens and several dozen cows and pigs.

Normally, students would collect freshly produced eggs, milk the cow and clean the barn every morning. Due to the pandemic, teachers have had to take over these obligations.

“You can’t conduct cropping and harvesting lessons, or training on how to raise farm animals online,” said Takamitsu Kusano, the school’s vice principal. “I am looking forward to seeing our students back on our farm.”

After the state of emergency was lifted in the prefecture, some training sessions resumed for students in the second and third year, on a rotating basis from May 18. The school plans to resume face-to-face classes from June 1.

Meanwhile in Fukuoka Prefecture, students enrolled at Fukuoka Technical High School, a public school located in the city, are supposed to learn how to operate processing machines, including those for metal — some students even become skilled enough to pass an electrical worker certificate. But schools have not been able to offer lessons for such skills due to the prolonged school closures.

The school resumed classes in smaller groups starting May 19 and fully reopened Friday. But the closure has especially taken a toll on first graders, who need to learn how to operate specialized machines and tools from scratch.

The delay has also sparked concerns about safety, given that students need to acquire sufficient knowledge and skills to operate tools to proceed with the curriculum.

Fisheries schools share the same problem. Students enrolled in fisheries courses are now unable to board vessels to learn about navigation and fishing.

“The vessel actually is our school. If you don’t get on board, you won’t learn how to steer,” said Akihito Oshiba, 53, who teaches marine science at the Fukuoka Prefectural Suisan Marine Studies High School in the city of Fukutsu.

After completing the school’s three-year basic course, students improve their skills during a two-year specialized program.

Every year, about 10 students on the specialized program cruise off the coast of Hawaii, where they spend about a year learning how to navigate and gaining knowledge about tuna longline fishing. This year, the cruise scheduled to start in April was called off.

Now that the state of emergency in Fukuoka has been lifted, the school is revising its curriculum. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the school plans to shorten its onboard training program, which will resume in September and will not include Hawaii in the itinerary.

However, such changes will affect students who are required to complete training lasting at least a year so they can take the level three maritime officer certificate, a national qualification.

The school, along with other institutions, is urging the government to allow students to take the exam by counting classroom lectures as equivalent to the practical experience required for national qualifications.

School authorities worry, however, that even after classes are resumed, onboard training will pose a high risk of infection due to closed and poorly ventilated spaces.

The school will require its students to self-quarantine for two weeks before boarding the training vessel.

“I want to help our students, including their mental status, and send them on a journey across the seas,” Oshiba said.

Source: Japan’s farming and fisheries schools struggle to move lessons online | The Japan Times

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