How to Erase Your Drive and Reinstall macOS on Catalina

I’ve been driving myself insane over the past few weeks months shopping for a new computer. So many options, so many new features. (Such high prices!)

During this search, I decided to take advantage of Apple’s 14-day trial period and test out a few of Apple’s newest MacBook Pros. Both of them were seriously impressive machines, and if it was my first Apple computer I’d probably go ahead and buy them. But, they weren’t. These computers were running Catalina and due to changes in the operating system, a number of fonts, files, and several programs I use a few times a year were not recognized and couldn’t be opened. This was too much for me to deal with in those 14-days, so I decided to return the computers and keep exploring my options.

Before returning them to Apple, I needed to wipe the drive clean. Apple has 3 articles outlined on their site on how to do this.

What to do before you sell, give away, or trade in your Mac
How to erase a disk for Mac
About macOS Recovery

Maybe because the instructions are split across 3 different web pages, I got confused and missed a step, wasted time, and finally ended up calling into their help desk.

So for my own reference, let me talk you through my experience. If you need to do this for a computer running Catalina, maybe my experience will help fill in some blanks.


Quick Add: I’ve tested out 2 other computers running Mojave and Sierra, since originally writing these steps. I followed these steps each time. I made a few updates where relevant based on those experiences, including a computer with a 3rd-party SSD.


Primary Steps to Wiping a Macintosh Hard Drive Running Catalina

These are the main steps to wiping your data from the computer. First you’ll be removing your Apple ID, then wiping security settings like your fingerprint ID. Then you’ll erase the drive.

For more information, check out: What to do before you sell, give away, or trade in your Mac for Apple's instructions.

1. Create a backup. In my case, since I had transferred files from a backup, I didn’t need this. But if this is your first computer, you should.

2. Sign out of iCloud. This worked exactly as Apple describes it for Catalina. iCloud is available in System Preferences. I think it did require my Apple ID or my computer’s administrator password. (Actually for one of these computers, I didn’t fully log out. Thankfully, you can log into iCloud via another computer and log out that way.)

3. Sign out of iMessage. I didn’t use iMessage, so I couldn’t sign out. (Or maybe that’s why I was still logged in!) In fact, this step was the first time I’d even opened iMessage, which I don’t use. I did see messages from years ago that got transferred over from my original backup file.

4. Reset NVRAM. This is supposed to delete security settings, like perhaps the fingerprint authorization if you’re using a laptop with the TouchBar.

  • In order to reset NVRAM, you shut down your computer. When you restart, immediately press and hold Option+Command+P+R for about 20 seconds. There’s no real indication anything is happening. I ended up trying this about 3 times before deciding I was done.
  • What should happen is you shut down, press Power, the Apple logo appears. Press and hold the keys, the Apple logo goes away. When you let go after 20-30 seconds, it comes back.
  • Note: I tried this on a 2019 iMac running Mojave. The Apple logo went away, then came back on its own after a few seconds. On a MacBook Pro running Sierra, I heard the restart repeating about 3 times until I let go.

5 (As needed). Unpair Bluetooth devices, if paired. No pairs for me.

6. Erase your hard drive and reinstall macOS. This is the hard part. Apple actually explains this in more detail on another page, which might be why it’s a little confusing.

This section was tricky for me because I mistakenly assumed the options for erasing a drive on Catalina were the same as my other computer running El Capitan. No! Well, I ended up consulting a few sources because none were absolutely clear.

Here are the 13 steps for fully erasing the hard drive.


13 Steps to Erase the Hard Drive (or Step 7 continued):

7.1 Shut down the computer.

7.2 Restart while pressing and holding Command + R. Don’t let go until you see the MacOS Utilities menu. (Actually, you can let go once you see the Apple logo. A language menu will show first.) This boots the computer in Disk Recovery. There will be a few options in Disk Recovery:

  • Restore from a Time Machine backup
  • Disk Utility [This is what you want]
  • Reinstall MacOS
  • Get help online (opens in a Safari, only)
Annotated image of macOS utilities menu, found in Disk Recovery.
For steps 7.2-7.3. Annotations added. Image can be found at https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208496.

7.3 Select Disk Utility. Once you get in here, you’ll see the same Disk Utility as if you’d searched in System Preferences.

7.4 Select View All. This is a critical step!! The drives you need for Catalina (as well as Mojave) are hidden by default. Make sure you do this step to view all hidden drives.

7.5 Select your drive. Once you’re viewing the full list of drives, after selecting View All, you should select the very first one at the top of the list. You may have given it a new name, but this is your main drive.

Annotated image of Disk Utility.
For steps 7.5-7.6. To erase your hard drive, select ‘View All’. Then select the first drive in the list. If you don’t have a name for your drive, you can leave it as ‘Untitled’ which is what I did on a call with Apple’s tech support. This image comes from Apple’s support pages (https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208496). I added the annotations.

7.6 Select Erase to view erase options. After selecting your drive, the options at the top of the window should include Erase, which should not be inactive at this point. Select Erase to open the menu options for your drive (see image).

  • Regarding drive naming options: When I managed to complete this correctly, I was on the phone with an Apple support technician. She told me I did NOT need to name the drive — e.g., ‘Untitled’ was fine. So although the image above clearly shows someone naming the drive Apple SSD, I did not. Howeverattempting this on that iMac with a 3rd-party SSD installed, it didn’t like ‘Untitled’ so I used the name of the 3rd-party drive.
  • The drive format: Apple’s instructions essentially say that whatever pops up as the default option is fine to stick with.

7.7 Erase the drive. Once all options have been made, click Erase. Deleting only takes a few moments. You’ll get a confirmation that the erase was successful.

7.8 Quit Disk Utility. After the drive is erased, you’re done. Close out of Disk Utility. You’ll return to the previous screen, Disk Recovery.

7.9 Back in Disk Recovery, select Reinstall MacOS.

7.10 Select ‘Untitled’ during the reinstallation process. After 7.9, the installation process will ask where to install MacOS. Choose the drive that was erased. It will be named ‘Untitled’ or whatever name you gave it.

7.11 Wait while your computer installs MacOS. You’ll need to be connected to the internet. If not, you’ll get prompted to select a network and password if you don’t have a wired connection. This step will take about 45 minutes to one hour, even though it starts out saying something like 8 minutes.

Notes:

  • If you did not erase the drive correctly, you’ll get to almost the end, and then it will tell you Mac OS cannot be installed. This is because the OS is still installed and it can’t be overwritten in this way.
  • I’ll also note that you cannot install an operating system your computer didn’t come with at this point. You cannot try to rollback to Mojave, for instance on Catalina, using this method.
  • These notes are written for Catalina (and other computers that have not had their operating systems upgraded) so I do not know what happens to computers that have been upgraded. It’s possible reinstalling MacOS installs the original OS, or it could be the last OS installed.

7.12 Computer restarts in welcome, setup mode. Once the operating system has been properly installed, the computer will automatically re/start in the welcoming start-up screens that you encounter on a brand new computer. Continue as necessary.

7.13 If you do not want to continue, press Command + Q to quit the start-up and the computer will shut down. If you have a laptop, it will power up automatically when the lid is opened.

Now you’re completely done! Hope that was helpful.


Extra resources:

  • To gain more courage in this process, I watched this video from AppleInsider. It is NOT tailored for Catalina. But it was helpful from an overall process perspective. I’ve queued it to start at Disk Recovery.

Extra Tips:

  • Keep the computer plugged in to power.
  • Try not to let your computer go to sleep during Reinstall MacOS.
  • Use another computer to read instructions, vs an phone, if you don’t follow these. It’s easier to search and switch between windows.
  • Back up your data ahead of time, if you intend to keep the files.

Using My Own Instructions to Wipe an iMac Running Mojave

As mentioned, I’ve been on the hunt for a new computer for a few months. I’ve tried 3 different Macs — 2 laptops and an iMac, as the title states. The 2 laptops I bought from Apple’s refurbished store. The iMac was purchased from Other World Computing.

OWC conveyed that wiping the computer was not necessary, but I chose to do it anyway. I referenced my own list above. I only have a few tips to add.

  • Definitely check that iMessage to sign out. I hadn’t opened it before, and assumed that I hadn’t been logged in. But I still needed to sign out.
  • Confirm sign outs via iCloud. Use iCloud to confirm your account has been fully signed out from all computers where you don’t want an account.
  • Check that if any licenses or subscriptions need to be deactivated. For instance, I had purchased a second copy of CleanMy Mac when I had the laptops running Catalina. Not only could Catalina not run the Adobe software, it also couldn’t run the uninstallers. In order to use the license on another computer, it had to be deactivated. It doesn’t matter that the drive was wiped.
  • Stick with the default drive format. I was also not exactly sure about the drive format. So I checked the Apple website again, and just stuck with the default choice: “Format: Choose APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Disk Utility shows a compatible format by default.”

Fun Online Courses from edX.org

I’ve been really impressed with the quality of education available on edX. Most of the courses I’v taken have been very informative. I usually look for courses that are professionally advantageous or just interesting. I’ve seen a few that look especially fun and interesting.

All of these courses can be audited for free, and most of them have a modest or moderate fee for a verified certificate. A SeriesX course, described below, is a bit more expensive, because it consists of a few classes.

Here’s my list of fun courses on edX.


XSeries Programs

XSeries Programs consist of a “series of courses to develop deep knowledge in interesting and popular subjects”. For instance, I recently completed a 5-part course on Chinese history from HarvardX.


Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology

What you will learn

  • Learn why we should study Star Trek as a lens for media scholars to analyze the history of television, the impact of science fiction on technology, and the phenomenon of fandom
  • Explore how Star Trek depicted a future where humans were explorers of the universe – serving as an inspiration to individuals and government agencies deeply involved in the race to get human beings into space for the first time
  • Understand how Star Trek’s diverse crew prompted audiences to reconsider their own perceptions of different races and genders
  • Reflect on how Star Trek depicted various characters working to understand themselves and their place in the universe
  • Recognize how Star Trek inspires reflection on our own humanity and our place in the universe

Remotely Humorous: Build Joyful and Resilient Virtual Teams with Humor

Venn diagram from HumorX, with humor, leadership, and impact overlapping

What you will learn

  • The neuroscience of laughter, and how it proves humor is a superpower for building more connected, creative, and resilient virtual teams.
  • How to unlock your unique sense of humor on the job and cultivate more levity and joy with colleagues and team members in your virtual workplace.
  • Comedy techniques from the pros for becoming more confident and skilled in using humor at work and in life.
  • The strengths and growth areas of your organization’s culture, along with virtual team building exercises to foster a more effective and joyful workplace.
  • The definitive punchline to “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Single Courses

And now here are a few individual courses from different universities and institutions around the world. Maybe you can pick up a theme? 🙂


WageningenX: The Science of Beer

Are you interested in more than just the taste of beer? Discover what’s in your beer, how it’s made and marketed and the effect it has on your body and health.

What you’ll learn

  • Identify the steps involved in the supply chain of beer
  • Explain the effect of each step in beer production
  • Design a production process for different beer styles
  • Describe the characteristics and cultivation of the main raw materials
  • Name the main historical events related to beer
  • Explain how marketers try to influence consumer behaviour.
  • Describe the pathway of beer through the human body
  • Look at the health effects related to beer consumption

TrinityX: The World History of Modern Wine

What you’ll learn

  • Major trends and changes in global wine production, trade and consumption over the past three hundred years
  • The concepts, methods and resources that historians use to think about the history of wine
  • How wine taste and quality have changed over time
  • When and how the wine industry has responded to crisis and change
  • How to start your own research into the history of your favorite wines

SmithsonianX: The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture

What you’ll learn

  • The history and origins of the first superheroes and comic books, and how they changed over time
  • The evolution of American society from the Depression to today, as viewed through the lens of the comic book genre
  • How the current globalization and diversity of the next generation of superheroes impacts our storytelling across all mediums
  • How to apply historical examples to create superheroes for the present day

AdelaideX: World of Wine: From Grape to Glass

What you’ll learn

  • Evaluate and communicate the various sensory attributes of wine using formal descriptive language
  • Explain the structure, growth and development of grapevines and objectives of different vineyard management practices
  • Contrast the different winemaking techniques employed in the production of different styles of wine

That’s it! I have other interesting courses on my list, but these courses look extra fun and interesting.

Unlocking Your Employability: An Edx Course from the University of Queensland

I was having a conversation the other day about job hunting strategies. I mentioned how I’d recently taken a new online course and had learned some new and unique approaches to share my past experiences with employers. I’d also learned that there are certain qualities all employers look for, though not every employer priorities these qualities equally.

The course, Unlocking Your Employability, is available from EdX and taught by two career coaches from the University of Queensland in Australia. The course frequently uses interviews from students, graduates, and employers to help explain many of the concepts. There’s also a mock interview.

In all honesty, the course is geared towards college students and recent graduates but I think the lessons could be helpful for experienced people as well. I’ve been working for more years than the intended audience, but I still learned quite a bit.

Overwhelmingly, the course focuses on teaching students how to reflect on past experiences, and to use that reflection during job hunting to demonstrate how the individuality of each job seeker is valuable to employers.

So here are some concepts I learned. This is will be a reference for me, too.


What is Employability

The first part of the course is focused on introducing and defining the term “employability”. I have to admit that I had not heard this word before and it took me a while before I really understood the concept.

Sharing Skills vs Employability

In my experience, when it comes to job hunting, much of what I’ve come across on job hunting strategies focuses on sharing skills and describing “what you did” on a project. One of the employers in the course distinguishes between employability vs employment outcomes, which is a closer concept to what I’ve come across. Employment outcomes is focused on just getting hired, not maintaining a job or emphasizing employee effectiveness.

Employability is about: finding a job, maintaining work, and being effective in the workplace. The course follows the path of reflecting on experiences to convey employability, and using those experiences to be an effective employee.

As the course is focused on employability, there’s more emphasis on the longer term goal of maintaining employment. The course does not emphasize skills growth. The course assumes the student, or job seeker, already has the skills. Instead the focus is on reflecting on your own individual responses in relation to your work and life experiences, and connecting them back to work.

The course focuses on identifying defining moments which can be used to build an employability narrative, which is conveyed to employers using the SEAL method, as discussed next.


STAR vs SEAL

One strategy I’ve come across numerous times focuses on use of the STAR method when it comes to sharing your employment experiences. I typically see this advice given to help job seekers prepare to answer behavioral interview questions or even how to describe a project in their portfolio. If you haven’t come across this before, STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. The idea is that when an interviewer asks a behavioral question, the interviewee gives an answer in the STAR format.

The trouble I’ve had with this advice is that there’s never any instruction provided on how to translate a past experiences into the STAR format, in a way that’s actually meaningful to me. Or an employer. It’s always seemed that it’s just focused on telling the story of what happened, not providing an answer that’s meaningful to employers.

SEAL is the reflective method taught in the course. SEAL stands for Situation, Effect, Action, Learning. SEAL focuses on helping job seekers take a past experience, from work or life, and reflect on it in a way that can be used to convey employability to employers.


Prep for STAR with SEAL

The best way to prepare for behavioral interviews is to prep ahead of time using SEAL. The course identified four questions employers are likely to ask in behavioral interviews:

  • Tell about overcoming a challenge
  • Dealing with conflict in a team
  • Managing competing priorities
  • Showing initiative

The idea is to think of specific situations that can be used to provide SEAL-based responses to the above questions. Once you’ve got those responses, it’s much less of a challenge to convert those responses into a STAR format. I’ve already started to use the SEAL method to shift my explanations of past projects towards a more reflective approach.

The key to choosing a situation to use in SEAL is to focus on an experience where you learned something. I really liked this approach because it means I’m able to take a situation and turn it into a learning experience that shows off some of my personal capabilities. The SEAL method can transform even a negative experience into something positive.


Identifying Defining Moments to Build an Employability Narrative

An employability narrative is the sum of each person’s individual experiences. It’s not just recapping a story of a series of experiences. When you’re hired by an employer, they’re getting the sum of your experiences not just your skills.

The experiences can come from anywhere, not just jobs. These can include:

  • Defining moments (that maybe had a big impact on your job outlook)
  • Key development opportunities (such as a volunteer or teaching experience)
  • Capabilities and strengths
  • Passions, values, beliefs

I think it really helps to spend time reflecting on this in order to build the narrative ahead of time. This part has been harder than I expected; it can be difficult to view yourself objectively.


Employer Expectations and Professionalism

Employer Expectations (aka Core Competencies)

Early in the course, the instructors provide a list of 10 expectations employers have for graduates (or employees). As they described, the list doesn’t change much.

This list probably looks pretty familiar. It’s in nearly every job ad, in one form or another. NACE calls these career competencies, if that helps to clarify. The list of employer expectations can be used by job seekers, using the SEAL method to share examples, and to convey capabilities and strengths.

Professionalism

These core competencies are not the same as professionalism, which focuses on workplace behaviors. The 4 aspects of professionalism identified by the course include:

  • Punctuality; Arrive on time
  • Dress appropriately
  • Work well with others; Team work
  • Communication; speaking appropriately

In addition, one of the employers (a nurse) interviewed in this section identified or explained a few other traits, which still fall under the above categories: positive attitude, introducing yourself, not arguing; think of how you address people. These fit under communication and team work. Obviously, some of these will be more important for some jobs vs others.

When I thought about this list, I have to admit that these are not what I would have identified as professionalism. Probably because I assumed professionalism was mostly focused on technical skills. And the course asked students to reflect on unprofessional behaviors we’ve witnessed as well as our own behaviors that we’d now classify as unprofessional.


Career Transitions and Wrap-Up

The last sections of the course focused on putting it all together, even including a mock interview. That was interesting because we were asked if we’d hire the interviewee and then discuss why or why not on the course forum.

There was also a section on discussing opportunities for continuing education. I guess this post is pretty biased towards the sections I found most interesting. Clearly I don’t have a problem with continuing education.


Reflections

The end of the course includes a course evaluation. Some of my thoughts about the course:

I learned more about the qualities that make someone employable, not just professionally but also personally. I also learned about qualities that define professionalism, which no one has ever explained to me before.

I’ve always considered myself to be professional, but I’ve developed a bad habit of being late to many different types of appointments. Most articles about lateness talk about the idea that being late as a sign of disrespect. But if you’re late to everything, including events that have no one there but yourself, that doesn’t make sense.

However, putting it into context that being late is an unprofessional behavior, well that’s not something I’d heard before. I’m sure that this habit has hurt me educationally as well as professionally. Now that I know, I will work harder at not being late because I don’t want people to think of me as unprofessional.


Initially, I did not appreciate the course that much, probably due to not understanding employability. But by the end, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to purchase a verified certificate of completions. It wasn’t too expensive ($59) and I don’t want to lose access to the course materials.


Bonus!

The section on professionalism reminds me of this 1950s video I saw on YouTube called ‘Office Etiquette’. The video is about a young woman who starts a new job after taking some type of typing training course. She spends the rest of the video reflecting on the lessons the typing instructor shared. Many of the lessons focused on employability, competency, and professionalism, though that’s not what they were called.

The instructor gives a little speech that her students seem to remember by heart: First of all know your work. Enjoy it, but also the people you’re working with. Be considerate of them and be considerate of your employer.

I guess this kind of speech meant a lot in the 1950s. To me it sounds a bit vague and kind of corny. I prefer the much longer and clearer lessons of the Edx course. But the overall points about professionalism and core competencies are still the same, even if the communication isn’t so clear.

The video is 13:15.

Old Time TV: Do’s and don’ts film portraying ways in which office etiquette contributes to success in office relationships. Follows a young woman who is seeking her first secretarial job and shows examples of good (and hilariously bad) on-the-job behavior. (13:15)

Resources:

Unlocking Your Employability: https://www.edx.org/course/unlocking-your-employability

The Wikipedia definition of employability is available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employability

Career Competencies on NACE (National Association for Colleges and Employers): https://www.naceweb.org/career-readiness/competencies/career-readiness-defined/

The University of Queensland, Australia: https://www.uq.edu.au/

Portfolio Updates: 2020 Build

I recently updated my portfolio again. I do it every year, I guess. As before, I designed it in Sketch, with some on-the-fly updates in CSS. Here’s a look at the after:

Screenshot
Screenshot of my updated website

 


List of changes

I still have some changes to make, but those are relatively minor. Here are some things that have and haven’t changed:

CSS Framework

I’m still using Tachyons, which is a low-level, utility CSS framework. I’ve started to move some styles to my stylesheet, partially to keep the HTML clean and also because I enjoy writing CSS classes.

Now Optimized for Wide-screens

Something I wasn’t aware of before was that the page content was floating left on super large, 4K screens. I optimize my site for mobile use, but I only have a laptop screen at home. I didn’t even think about this previously!

Well, I fixed this, by giving the pages a max-width and centering content, but I’m annoyed that it happened and I didn’t know until now.

New Inspirations

The overall inspiration for my website comes from Swiss design posters, but I was additionally inspired by two more websites.

  • Paravel has a simple global navigation and conveys a lot of information about projects, without being cluttered. A good example of including text, but not too much. I borrowed from their All Work section at the bottom of the page. paravelinc.com
  • Salt & Pepper sticks to neutral tones of black, white, light tan, has lots of white space, and uses big titles for their sections. It reminds me of some of the original goals for my site. I added more white space to the landing page, similar to their main page. snp.agency/en

New Projects

Overall, I added three projects, moved one, and removed one. The one I moved went to the new section, as described next.

Below the main project area, I replaced the images of brands and companies, and instead added a grid of rectangles with logos. Some of the logos lead to new pages with shortened projects. I decided to call these shortened projects “Small Bites”. Most of these projects are examples of individual design artifacts, rather than complete case-study reviews. The reason for this is I wanted to share examples of good work, but I don’t always have a strong story to tell.

Main web page update

I also updated my main website home page. Previously it was yellow and dark gray. At the time, I wanted to give an equal weight to my Cargo collection portfolio (which is really only because I am paying extra for that), and my blog. I decided that page was embarrassingly bad, so I updated it for something a bit nicer. I had to admit to myself that most people will be viewing my website to view my UX portfolio, so I made that more prominent.

Maybe I’ll update this page to include more personal stuff, like my GoodReads list, or a recent blog post, or something. And, I’d like to make it more Swiss-poster style, so there may be more changes.

Favicon

I updated the favicon to a little green square. I used to get confused about which page I was on, but I’ll probably change it back. It’s  not really meaningful for me.

I like the tree. 🙂

Still no subdirectory for Work

I’ve considered moving my projects into a sub-directory, like alliwalk.com/ux/work/project-name. But there are 2 reasons for not doing that.

The first reason is creating a work directory would require creating an index page. The obvious thing to include on that page is the list of projects, which would mean moving my projects to that page. I’d like to keep the navigation flat and stick to the one-page design.

The second reason is I don’t want to be using long urls. And I guess another reason is that the About and Colophon would then be hierarchically above the project pages, and that’s not right, either. So everything will stay where it is.


Help from StackOverflow

I ran into two CSS/layout issues, related to images and the footer.

Problem 1: Images. In one case, I was getting this thin, black line showing up around some images on a new page I’d added where I wanted to use a different effect for image hovers. The effect meant I had to wrap the images differently than just placing them on the page. The only problem was that I could not figure out where the border was coming from, until finally I found an “How to remove a border of background-image“.

I had been adding images using like this:

<img style="background-image: url(https://www.w3schools.com/css/trolltunga.jpg)"/>

This is incorrect. Image tags require a “src”. The other option is this:

<div style="background-image='url(image.jpg)'"></div>

The only problem is that it’s not exactly semantic, and it’s not accessible, as is. However, it can be made accessible by using role and title attributes, which is what I did.

Problem 2: Footer. The other question I found helpful was related to the footer, which was not sticking to the bottom of the page on some pages. Bootstrap has an easy solution for it, and I thought I found another option that would work, but it failed, too. Finally, I found “DIV content overflows into footer, makes footer go upward on page” which provided a simple solution, though kind of hacky solution.


And, I guess the other thing is I never shared the results of the research I did in 2019 on UX portfolios. I checked on it again, to remember all of my findings. But, I don’t know if it should be on SlideShare, or if I should put it on LinkedIn, or just on this blog. I don’t know. Something to think about.

I was hoping to present it at UX Camp this year, but….

Month Notes, May-July 2020

Just a mini list of all the stuff I’ve been consuming/doing. Portfolio updates, books, and courses.

Portfolio Updates

I’ve made several adjustments to my portfolio. I’ve already started another post detailing the changes, so I won’t go into much detail now. But one change was to update the website index page. Instead of the yellow and dark gray, with Courier font, I updated the page to stick with all Inter font and emphasized the portfolio link. I may change it again, but I prefer the gradient gray over the yellow.


Courses and Educational Film

The Dynamics of Desegregation

Over the past few months, I’ve been watching The Dynamics of Desegregation which is available via my local PBS station. This series originally aired in 1962 and 1963 as a 15-part “intensive study of race relations in the United States.” It is hosted by Thomas F. Pettigrew, PhD, who was then Harvard psychology professor. He is now at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

3 MOOCS

In the past few years, most of the online courses I’ve completed have been about tech, business, or design. While I find these courses valuable for work, I do sometimes wonder what I’m not learning. Serendipitously, due to the lockdowns, ClassCentral sent an email about courses and I decided to try some new topics. Here are three courses I’ve completed, or almost finished:

1. ChinaX: Creating Modern China on EdX

I’ve always been interested in Chinese history, but this is truly one of the most interesting courses I’ve even taken, anywhere. The 5-parts are:

I suppose I selected this course on modern China because I have been hearing about the country so much in the news media and from government officials, who I assume are biased. I wanted to form my own opinions about the country. I also took it because I know the history of modern China had a communist period. Supposedly the country is still communist, but given the people I’ve met, the stories I’ve heard about the growing wealth in China, and how aggressive China is towards developing technology, I wasn’t so sure.

Anyway, it’s a fascinating course. I highly recommend it. This series is Part 2. Part 1 is about pre-history of China and the earlier dynasties.

2. Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society on Coursera

This course is from the University of Pennsylvania. It’s focused on the design of physical artifacts. I really enjoyed the breakdown of solving design problems by breaking them down into separate issues and using charts to deciding which prototype to progress into the next stage. It’s much more professionally focused than the others.

Given the circumstances, where I’m not really going out and not able to talk with friends, I did not attempt to create an artifact. But I did appreciate the lectures and hopefully I can come back to this in the future.

3. Sheep in the Land of Fire and Ice on EdX

“This short course discusses the sustainability of sheep grazing in Iceland and explores how history, socioeconomic factors and environmental conditions have shaped the management of grazing resources.”

I tell anyone who will listen about my dreams of farming sheep and/or goats. When I saw this short course from the University of Iceland, on a topic related to sheep, I figured I  should try it.

What I learned is that because Iceland’s soil is volcanic, it is prone to erosion when the native plants that keep the soil together are destroyed by overgrazing or by too many sheep that simply crush the plants. There was more information about the history of Iceland, sheep farming, and geography. Needless to say, I will never be a sheep farmer on Iceland.

You can also learn more at sheepfireice.org.


Personal

Last time I did a post like this, I mentioned finishing “Flights”, by Olga Tokarczuk. Since then, I’ve finished:

Food-wise, it’s now summer which means I don’t use the oven much. Due to the lockdowns, I also haven’t been buying fresh milk too much. I’ve switched to non-fat dry milk and almond milk because they are more shelf stable, reducing my trips to the grocery. It turns out I really enjoy almond milk in my iced coffee.


Image credit: Hand schrijvend met een kroontjespen, by Isaac Weissenbruch, 1836 – 1912, paper, h 72mm × w 113mm — View original at Rijksmuseum.nl 

(I believe the title is translated as ‘Hand writing with a dip pen’.)

Event: Omotesenke, Green Tea Ceremony

Japan Society's workshop on the Japanese Tea Ceremony
Screen capture from event page for Japan Society’s workshop on the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

The Japanese art of tea ceremony is a time-honored tradition still widely practiced today, but with so many tools and so much etiquette, learning this beautiful practice can seem daunting. At our workshop, an instructor from the Omotesenke Domonkai Eastern Region USA school of tea ceremony will guide guests through the delicate steps of a traditional tea ceremony in a casual setup.


I forgot to write about this event I attended, from way back on 26 February, 2020. Given the number of world events that occurred since then, it kind of slipped my mind. It’s something I would write about, so I’m going to include it now.

History

We’re usually given pamphlets at most Japan Society events. I kept my mine, so here are a few basic facts:

Chanoyu is the green tea ceremony and Omotesenke is one of the schools of green tea ceremony. Members of the Omotesenke school taught our course. The other two schools are Urasenke and Mushanokojisenke.

“Sen no Rekyu established the basics of Chanoyu as it is practiced today.” Rikyu (1522-1591) was a tea master during the Momoyama period, and was a tea master for both Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi who were shoguns during his lifetime.

The Metropolitan Museum has a detailed essay, Japanese Tea Ceremony, that provides an overview of the history and culture surrounding this ceremony, and the development of “the simple and quiet form of Chanoyu called Wabicha”. This led to the wabi aesthetic, and there are examples of beautiful, wabi artifacts related to the tea ceremony on the Met website.

Tea Utensils

The pamphlet listed all the tea utensils, and we also had our own at our individual place settings.

  • tea bowl
  • Chaki, the container that holds the powdered tea
  • Chashaku, the tea scoop
  • Fukusa, the silk cloth for wiping the tea container
  • Mizusashi, container for holding fresh water
  • Kama and Hishaku, kettle of boiling water and ladle, respectively
  • Kakemono, a scroll hung for guests
  • Tokonama, alcove where scroll is hung
  • Chaseki, the tea room

Overview

For the ceremony, first they demonstrated, then we got to try. They provided us with a little tin of matcha to take home. I didn’t take any photos this time, but there are a few on the Omotesenke website. Given the time that’s passed, don’t remember as much, but  here are a few things I do remember:

One thing at a time. Something that gave the tea ceremony a more ceremonial feel was that there was no multi-tasking. For instance, no holding the tea cup while pouring the water. Put down the scoop before picking up the whisk. It was more meditative and slowed things down a bit.

A place for everything and everything in its place. We had little placemats for our tea settings showing where items should be placed before and sometimes after being used. It was very organized.

Very sweet desserts! There’s a type of sugary sweet that is served before the tea ceremony. To me, it tasted like a block of pure sugar! This was something I did not expect. We were told the reason is because green tea is kind of bitter and the sugar helps it taste nicer.

A few more questions

How does matcha differ from sencha, hojicha, or other green teas? From attending another event on green tea, I am much more informed about tea. All tea is made from the same plant. It’s only in the processing that determines if it’s black tea or green tea, etc. Most teas are steeped. Matcha is the actual tea leaves, that have been finely ground into a powder. So where green tea has many health benefits, it’s still only steeped in water. In matcha, you actually consume the leaf itself. But matcha has caffeine, so we were told to be careful of how much we added to our cups.

What do people talk about at a tea ceremony? I asked one of the two presenters if people talked to each other at the tea ceremony. She turned the question around and asked the group what they thought. People guessed that the ceremony was quiet and there was no talking at all. She said there can be some discussion, but usually only one person asks the questions to the host and talking is kept to a minimum. The focus is on the ceremony and the meditative atmosphere.


The actual tea ceremony didn’t last that long. I suppose I assumed it would be longer or more elaborate than it was. Maybe other activities like putting on a kimono or selecting the scroll would add to it.


PS – I didn’t take any photos, but one of the people from the tea school took one and I found a picture of me.

Tea Ceremony at Japan Society
Me sitting right by the screen at the tea ceremony presentation.