Quarantine random thoughts #5

Wow… it’s two weeks since I wrote the first post of this series. Two weeks that most of us have spent shut in our homes.

I’ve realised that I hardly know anyone who has to go out to work. I suppose it’s another case of echo chamber: most people in my social network can work from home or in any case are not part of that large group of people who can’t afford the safety of social separation and have to go out every day to provide some indispensable service.

Aside of the prime minister catching it, there aren’t significant news here. Numbers keep climbing. Nobody knows what will happen, for how long it will happen, what will we find on the other side. But it does look like the worse predictions get more clicks, and this does not improve the media landscape. If you want to read something a bit less gloomy, you might like this article on the Oxford Science Blog: COVID-19 ‘should not necessarily foreshadow an economic downturn’.

In the last few days I have noticed a surge of conspiracy theory links coming from friends and family… still trying to decide how to deal with them. I have also received my first Covid19 joke from my friend Perry:

Yesterday while watching The Stranger on Netflix (I haven’t finished the season, but the first few episodes are not bad at all), I felt a strange uneasiness seeing people going around and standing closer than two meters apart. It’s a bit like when you watch an old movie, where people are smoking, don’t use the web, don’t have a smartphone or you catch a glimpse of the twin towers in New York, and you instinctively realise that the scene was happening in a time “before”. Of course, eventually we will go out again, but at the moment it feels we are all living in a time “after”.

As you might guess I like to be blogging again. I rediscovered the continuous process of thinking about things in the context of a blog post. Some old friends got back in touch, and I also got a few inbound links (thank you Dave and Colin), I had forgotten how good it feels :)

To complete the 2002 vibe, I have also restarted using an RSS reader. NetNewsWire works very well on MacOS and iOS, and I have a Feedbin account to keep things nicely in synch, so now I’m rebuilding my subscription list, reading good stuff every day, and wondering why did I ever give up.

That’s all for today. Stay safe, be nice, keep in touch.

Quarantine random thoughts #4

It’s another lovely sunny day in London, and here’s the view from my window this morning.

You know what? I’m fine!

It’s what I keep repeating myself: right now I’m just fine. I’m warm. I have food and booze. I have the Internet. I’m more in touch with my friends and family than ever, and they seem to be fine too. The future hasn’t happened yet, the past is gone. Let’s not get carried away from the news and all those stats.

Anyway, since yesterday we are quarantined for good. We have to stay home. Protect the NHS.

Like everyone else I got the text message from Her Majesty government, which links to a site which displays these logos:

Now… I don’t know why, but the fact that they had to come up with a bunch of bad logos for this slogan annoys me. I’m sure that they employed some nudge unit to come up with the most effective way to convince people. And yes, just telling them to stay home clearly was not working. But still… really? Protect the NHS? Bah…

For future memory, this week the rules are:

  • Work from home if you can;
  • You can go out to get food and medicines, but you have to stay at least 2 metres away from other people;
  • You can go out once a day for physical activity, but only with one other person of your household;
  • The police will be enforcing this!

I wonder if the police will come house by house to force you to go out for some physical activity. That would solve a whole set of other problems for the NHS!

But today, after 5 days, I did go out to get some groceries. I still have plenty, but since my experience last week with the desperately empty shelves I was a bit concerned, so I figured that it was worth going out, maybe get the last scraps of food before everything was finished and the great famine of 2020 would start.

My local Marks & Spencer supermarket is now limiting the number of people who can enter the place at the same time, so I joined the nice and well distanced queue.

It took about 10 minutes, and once I got in… I could not believe my eyes!

I’ve been shopping here for 5 years, and I had never seen this place so well stocked! Not only they had everything but they had a lot of everything!

So now I have eggs.

In other news, this week we also had some time to record a new episode of the SotN podcast, as usual get it where you get your podcasts, or just listen here:

We just got some very nice comments about the show. To be honest I would do this even if nobody was listening, I just have fun and every time I learn something new. But knowing that somebody else out there is enjoying these too is great!

And this is all for today. Stay safe, be nice, keep in touch.

Quarantine random thoughts #3

This is the state the roll. At this rate and with current reserves I should be good until August.

One week went by and I have left my flat only three times.

After a short walk in the park on Monday, I travelled to central London on Thursday to get some pipe tobacco in one of my favourite shops: JJ Fox (I heard it kills people, it should work on viruses, and anyway this is not the time for quitting).

Even if there’s not nearly the level of shut-down my family is experiencing in Italy, there was a lot less people around. All the tourist are gone. Most restaurants were already closed. Here’s what Piccadilly looked like:

If it is true that the UK is two weeks behind Italy, next week is when things should become serious. I was curious about the effectiveness of the different approaches taken in these two countries: the prescriptive approach in Italy (you get fined if you are caught out without a good reason) versus the collaborative approach here, were people are just advised to stay home and avoid contact.

Well… one week in it doesn’t look like moral suasion is working. Not only there’s still plenty of people everywhere (and they don’t all look like NHS staff on their way to work), but the repeated advice not to panic buy is clearly not being respected.

Yesterday I went to M&S for some grocery shopping. I have been using their shopping app for a while, but now it’s nicer than ever to be able to walk in, get some stuff in my own shopping bag and leave, without having to touch anything but the products I’m buying! It works quite well, highly recommended.

Anyway, the store had been stormed and was half empty. I could still buy everything I had on my list, except for eggs. This hoarding of fresh food doesn’t make any sense, but it looks like it’s still happening and it’s not getting any better.

My initial plan was to go out early this morning to try to find eggs, but then decided not to. I don’t really need eggs, so I opted to stay home and write a blog post complaining about people who did go out and got my eggs.

Everything else is smooth, as expected working from home is not a big challenge, I have re-started meditating regularly (I’m back on Headspace), I’m enjoying cooking all the time.

I’m still wearing my Apple watch every day, just because I find not having to unlock my Mac with a password very convenient, but of course the activity tracking is embarrassing.

I’m still following the news and reading everything I can, but at this point it’s quite clear that nobody really knows what is going to happen. There are bleak projections, slightly more hopeful ones, and in any case we are all waiting to see what happens in China.

So all we can do is take a breath, step back, and realise that in this moment we are doing just fine. Even without eggs.

Stay safe, be nice, and please do keep in touch.

Quarantine random thoughts #2

It’s day two AV (after virus era), the UK is catching up with the rest of Europe asking people to avoid other people, but from what I can see from my window there’s still plenty of folks out and about (schools are still open, and there’s a school at the end of the street).

Meanwhile I just made some farfalle.

It’s interesting how France appears to be going with an Italian approach (ordering everybody to stay home, policing the streets to make sure that nobody moves), while the UK is still suggesting people to stay away from others, apparently counting on citizens to do the right thing. Let’s see if this works.

In any case things are changing, and everybody is wondering how long this will last: on one side after a couple of months China seems to be coming back online, but others expect the impact of the virus to last much longer, changing our life for as long as one year. That’s great, by the time I will leave my flat Crossrail will be up and running! (Just kidding, of course we won’t be forced to stay home for a year).

There’s more and more data available every day, but it’s not easy to compare and understand what is really going on. Here’s an interesting article comparing the Korean and Italian crisis, trying to understand why the significantly different mortality rate.

Changing your behaviour for a certain amount of time helps forming new habits (I work with a company that has built a product on this). Some say it takes 66 days, some more, some less, but it does appear that we will all have the opportunity of forming new habits this spring.

A lot of people will get used to working from home and get stuff delivered. It’s a trend that was already happening, but any resistance will be blown away. I think that some companies will start wondering if they really need all that expensive real estate.

On the good news side, we will probably get used to better air quality. I wonder if people will notice and do something about this when they will be allowed to leave their homes again.

And canals in Venice are suddenly crystal clear.

Others are still adapting: I just got an automated spam message promoting discounted parking at the airport. Clearly the campaign was set up in the BV (before virus) era and nobody remembered to turn it off.

It’s sad to see all countries closing their borders (in most cases it’s a bit too late for that), and there’s a strange feeling knowing that I won’t be able to go home for a while. I’ve stayed away from Italy for longer, but there was always the option of jumping on a plane and get home. Now there isn’t. Apparently I could catch a bus to Dover, a ferry and then a train to Italy… the world is suddenly big again.

The internet is keeping us together. There have been a couple of glitches in my connection over the weekend, long enough to contemplate with sheer terror the idea of being offline. It was just a moment, but it did feel more uncomfortable than usual.

That’s all for today. Stay safe, be nice, keep in touch.

Quarantine random thoughts #1

So here we go, I’m all ready with my home office set up, from Monday everybody works from home until further notice. Nobody knows when the further notice will arrive, but from everything I’m reading, it might not be very soon.

If you want something to read, Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now is an interesting article that a lot of friends and contacts have been linking. It’s the first time I really pay attention to a pandemic, and I’m loving all the data sets that you find, I’ve been playing with this one maintained on GitHub by Johns Hopkins CSSE.

While back home in Italy everything is locked down, here in the UK there aren’t big consequences yet. Wondering if here they are incredibly smart or incredibly stupid, we will find out later.

The truth is that working from home doesn’t make a big difference in our line of work, I have been working with remote teams for more than 15 years, most of our life run through zoom and slack anyway. I do think that since it’s so easy for us, it’s smart for us to stay home, while people who can’t work remotely will have to keep moving. The less people around, the better, and while there are no limits to movement in the UK at the moment, I must admit that it felt a bit unpleasant travelling squeezed on the Central Line this week.

Meanwhile the local supermarket are out of pasta and toilet paper, but pretty much everything else is available.

I find this puzzling. In the next few days more toilet paper will be delivered, and, okay, those who were without will buy more toilet paper, but at some point we will reach saturation of how much toilet paper you can store in a house, right? And then what? What do these people know that I don’t? Is there going to be a big shortage of wood fibers used for toilet paper manufacturing? Oh well, we’ll see, meanwhile this from Euan is the funniest bit I read on the topic:

But no worries, I’m okay. I have plenty of toilet paper and enough pasta to last a few weeks. As you can see from the photo above I’ve plenty of booze and I’m planning to keep myself disinfected drinking plenty of Quarantini (a Quarantini is a regular Martini that you drink alone).

On the good news side, there will be plenty of savings. For the next few weeks there will be no lunches in restaurants and no shirts to launder (while the jury is still out on use of deodorant…).

Some say that this quarantine will mark a difference between those who can cook and those who cannot. I have a lot of interesting meals planned for the next few days.

That’s all for now. Stay safe, be nice, keep in touch.

SotN #17

And here’s the first 2020 episode of our podcast, get it while it’s still fresh on Apple, Spotify, Luminary or just click “play” in the box below! This time talk about viruses, behaviour change, narrating human experience, learning from podcast and YouTube.

This is the first time I used Ferrite to edit the show on my iPad Pro, and what a pleasure! Editing using the pencil and gestures has been the best new user experience I had in the last 10 years. Absolutely fantastic!

While Euan had recommended the app before, what pushed me to abandon Garage Band has been this video:

Now I can’t wait to edit the next episode!