Quarantine random thoughts #23

The temperature should reach 31º today, which by London standards is “quite hot indeed”. Having failed to successfully launch Zoom Bikini Day™ with the rest of the team, I think I will just remove all my clothes between calls. Or move my workstation in the shower. Another advantage of working from home!

I’ve been back to Central London a couple of times in the last week. It was nice to go back, it’s still much less crowded than usual (all tourists are missing!).

Good old Horatio all by himself on a Saturday afternoon (later in the day the square was actually quite crowded with protesters).

I followed the WWDC keynote this week, had a good chat with Euan about announcements in an upcoming podcast.

It reminded me of WWDC 1995. My dad attended the conference, and when he came back to Italy he brought with him an early beta of the QuickTime VR authoring tools.

Two big plastic binders of documentation and a bunch of CR-Rom. It was the most exciting thing ever! We had to take photos with a special rig using a professional camera with very wide angle lenses, send out the film to be scanned on PhotoCD, then use command line tools to stitch photos together, slice them and convert the file into a QuickTime VR file. We actually made a business out of this for a while.

I have a special appreciation for how you can shoot pretty good panoramas on any phone these days.

Also, I went to the office to work with a couple of colleagues yesterday.

It was odd and familiar at the same time. We met because we had to shoot a short video, not really planning to go back to the usual routines. Since I’m flying back to Italy in a week, I don’t think I will be back in that office for most of the Summer.

Stay safe, be nice, keep in touch, and shoot a panorama of your living room, it will be nice to find it in a few years.

Quarantine random thoughts #22

Had a bit of an adventure on Friday. I was walking out my local Mark & Spencer shop after buying eggs, double cream and courgettes for my quiche, when I was stopped by two security guard and escorted to a dingy room in the back and ordered to sit on a foldable chair.

2 minutes earlier…

What had happened is that I was shopping using the M&S “Mobile Pay to Go” app, somebody in the shop saw my picking up products and dropping them straight in my shopping bag and had alerted security.

I was asked to remove my mask and to provide an ID (which I did not have). The attitude was quite aggressive until they finally accused of theft and I was able to show the receipt on my phone. At that point they apologise profusely, claiming that the app was a new thing (it isn’t) and they were not aware of the fact that it was available in that shop (duh).

The quiche came out all right.

My two random thoughts about this

Companies work at different speeds, especially large companies. I was caught in the space between somebody releasing an app one side of the company and people providing security on site on the other. It would have been simple for them to just ask for the receipt when I was stopped at the exit, but it looks like the idea of a customer leaving with products without going through a traditional payment process was not even considered.

I wonder if the fact that I was wearing a black face mask and a black ball cap had anything to do with me being stopped, after all I had used the app a lot of times over the last six months while wearing my usual middle age (and white) face. If this was the case, and masks remove a little privilege, I think that overall it’s a good thing.

Stay safe, be nice, keep in touch, make yourself a nice quiche.

Quarantine random thoughts #21

Damn… it’s Friday again. For the last couple of months my weeks have been: Monday, Friday, Sunday – Monday, Friday, Sunday… everything else is lost in a blur of zoom calls.

I did manage to go to Kew Gardens on Sunday. Weather was meh, most services in the park are closed and the flowerbeds were empty, but it’s still one of my favourite places.

Since I rebooted this blog I see blogs as the solution to everything (if all you have is a hammer…). In particular with people working apart (in different locations, different companies, different time zones) writing daily updates in the form of blog posts seems the most natural thing to do to avoid having more zoom calls and move more communication to asynchronous channels.

Except that even the concept of what is a “blog post” is not that clear to most people who never had the experience of a thriving community of bloggers. I’m trying different things, for example using a Slack channel as a blog, so far without too much success.

Or maybe it could be something else? Maybe podcasting or sharing videos could be an alternative. There’s no lack of tools or forms of expression, the challenge is convincing enough people to lead by telling good stories.

Meanwhile I’m looking forward to my haircut. Already booked, in exactly three weeks!

Stay safe, be nice, and keep in touch.

Quarantine random thoughts #20

End of week 12. When I started I wasn’t expecting to write 20 of these posts. It doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon.

Chatting with a friend yesterday, we agreed that one of the best things you can do these days is cancelling a zoom meeting at the last moment. This used to annoy me to no end, but nowadays it’s bliss!

Have you ever tried an onion bagel with a fried egg?

It must have been around 10 years ago, in Don Winslow’s novel The Winter of Frankie Machine the main character describes to great detail his favourite breakfast: an onion bagel with a fried egg.


I immediately though that it was a great idea, but at the time I was in Italy and had zero access to any type of bagel, let alone onion ones. Luckily in the period I was spending a lot of time on the West Coast. On my next trip I couldn’t think about anything else for the whole flight, as soon as I landed I dropped my stuff in my studio apartment in San Francisco, ran out and bought a bag of bagels, a carton of eggs and some butter.

My life has never been the same.

Since then I have eaten hundreds of bagels. After moving to the UK I found out about “proper” bagels from North London bakeries. Proper onion bagels make everything in your bags smell like onions for a week, but when they are fresh and still crunchy nothing beats them.

I tried different types of bagels, different eggs, tried them with smoked salmon or bacon, learned to keep my egg runny (unlike Frankie I eat them right away in a plate, not later a linen napkin).

Now I’m listening to Broken, Don Winslow’s latest collection of stories (narrated by Ray Porter, one of my favourite), and sure enough at some point one of the characters asks “have you ever tried an onion bagel with a fried egg?”.

I had to drop everything!

Thanks Don, you have changed my life.

Stay safe, be nice, and keep in touch.

Quarantine random thoughts #19

It looks like the weather won’t be so great this week. Which is remarkable considering that it has been beautiful for pretty much the whole duration of this quarantine. Some say it’s the driest spring since 1929, I haven’t verified the claim, but it kinda fits that major economic crises of the century come with good weather.

I have done some house keeping on the site, now it should be more readable on mobile and if you want you can subscribe via email leaving your address in the form on the side. Subscribing via email sounds a bit a thing of the 90s, but looks like it’s all we have outside social media (I do encourage you to figure out RSS aggregators if you have some time, it’s still totally worth it).

Last week I watched the launch and docking of Crew Dragon. Quite a show! There was a lot of waiting for things to happen, but there were moments even better than Apple’s product launch events. That booster landing back on the drone ship is always amazing!

I’ve been pulled down a rocket science rabbit hole on YouTube for the last few months, so I found the whole thing even more interesting. It did remind me the excitement of watching the first launch of the Space Shuttle with my grandfather when I was 10.

Space Shuttle vs. Crew Dragon

Many have shared a picture comparing the Space Shuttle cockpit with thousands of buttons to the Crew Dragon one, with three touch screens and a couple of dozen of buttons. I think that the most remarkable thing is that those buttons could very well have been used by astronauts to switch between Netflix and Amazon Prime, after all the whole mission was self-driving (the same hardware flew a couple of months ago with an empty suit sitting on the chair).

Imagine these two guys, who made their career out of trying to control the most advanced and uncontrollable vehicles that humankind had ever built, just sitting along for a ride. Actually the instructions they got just before docking on the ISS was to stow away some shit and wipe the screen, just like any other cleaning lady.

I got my new Etsi mask this week. Looks great. Stay alert, scare the virus.

Ready to go grocery shopping or join the riots.

Stay safe, be nice, and keep in touch.