New Normal Random Thoughts #10

So I’m flying back to Italy this week. I don’t know how the situation has changed there over the last six weeks, while I more or less follow the news I’m missing the day to day experience, but I’m looking forward to get back to what seems to be a much less stressful environment.

Meanwhile I’m loosing some of the admiration I had for my new home, this article on the NY Times captures well the feeling and the situation in London:

The current crisis seems exacerbated by an offshoot of the very virtue celebrated in the conventional historical narrative — an admirable refusal to bend. The national mantra, “keep calm and carry on,” seems to have been reconfigured into the misguided notion that nothing is amiss.

The sense of permanent confusion here is just unnecessarily stressful, there’s a continuous flow of contrasting information coming from all sides, and while the Prime Minister likes to compare himself to good old Winston, instead of delivering “we shall never surrender” speeches they seem to be afraid that shutting down pubs would trigger an insurrection. While I have always found the tradition of pubs interesting, I had never realised before the importance of the “right to get drunk” felt by what appear to be sizable parts of the population.

Weekly laundry in 2020.

Then last week there was a debacle with the track and tracing programme (which government here defines “world-beating”), where some 16,000 test results were lost for a few days.

Many wrote that the problem was somehow related to using Excel to process some of the data. I feel bad for whoever was in charge of setting up this whole system: I have recommended myself to just dump data to Excel if you need a quick way to manipulate large tables: it’s almost as available as a web browser and it is usually a much faster and more effective tool than building custom software.

So while I don’t know what really happened, I’m pretty sure that whoever had to put together a highly scaleable solution with little time and resources and then hand it over to thousands of untrained users is not the one who chose to call it “world-beating”.

Meanwhile on the streets and the shops of London there’s still plenty of people not following social distancing rules, and recently I’ve heard been defined “fascists” those shops imposing them in a slightly more assertive way.

On Thursday I’m leaving this all behind. I’m not saying that everything is going to be perfect, but at least we have plenty of experience with fascists in Italy.

Hope to be back soon, in the meanwhile be kind, and good luck.

2 thoughts on “New Normal Random Thoughts #10”

  1. I feel like the Excel thing is not “Excel bad” per se, but spending hundreds of millions with Deloite to get an Excel spreadsheet that doesn’t work. I totally agree on the pub thing though. People like to evoke WW2 and the blitz spirit. People were having their fucking houses blown up. They were rationed. They were called up to fight and die. You can’t go to the pub. Cry me a fucking river.

    1. There is this narrative that make it sound like that they wired 100M and Deloitte just emailed them back an Excel template.
      I don’t really know the details, I think I heard that it was used to transfer data between services and the fact that they were using and .xls instead of an file format .xlsx format and thus hit the 16K row limit in the file.

      All I’m saying: without knowing what happened I’m willing to cut them some slack. The fact that Excel was involved is not necessarily the proof that it was amateurish or badly implemented. But of course, one or more mistakes were made.

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