Social Distancing Day 3

The theme for today has been establishing some sense of normalcy. Personally, it has been easy to swing between two extremes: we are all going to die, and wheee! it’s stay-cation time. Of course, neither of these are true. 80% of COVID-19 cases seem to be “mild”, where “mild” means symptoms of a bad flu for 1-2 weeks. The world is not going to end as a result of the coronavirus (one hopes, though perhaps it will spur some much needed socio-economic reform). If it were, I would be encouraging everyone to go out with a bang, and lots of raucous partying accompanied by good food and better drink.

On the other hand, this isn’t vacation time for me. I’m lucky enough to have a job that is largely unaffected by having to stay at home for weeks (or even months). That means that I can expect to have a steady paycheck coming in each month, and also that I have to keep on working, as normally as I can manage.

So today has been an attempt to split the difference between the extremes, trying to settle down for a less-than-ideal, but not-terrible few weeks, and trying to make the most of the situation. After another late start (which needs to stop happening), a large part of the day went into cleaning the apartment, both shared spaces and my own room. Yes, it took a global pandemic to get us to deep clean the apartment, insert lazy millennial joke here.

We celebrated a clean apartment with gin and tonics on the balcony. It had been a day of depressing drizzle with a few minutes of sun in the late afternoon, so we wanted to make use of the lack of rain, even though the sky was packed with ominous clouds. Of course, it started raining again before we were even a third of the way done with our drinks. But by sunset the clouds had miraculously disappeared and we had some clear blue skies by the time it was dark. This all seems like an extended metaphor for our current situation and a portent of things to come. It feels like we are in the calm before the storm. Everything seems quiet, especially for those of us already stocked up and staying home, but in a few weeks healthcare systems in the United States are likely to overwhelmed the way Italy is now. There will be a lot of deaths, and yet, most of us will survive and live to tell the tale. This is a crisis, but not yet a catastrophe.

But as I said, today was an attempt at something akin to normalcy. We made dinner (and by we, I mean one of my roommates, she would like you to know that her cooking is excellent and that she is a paragon of style), made and drank cocktails, I contributed my Netflix account to watch an episode of The Witcher. The cats are very happy to have extra attention all the time, though my vacuuming in the afternoon was a little unsettling. I’ve decided that I will be having afternoon tea, with yes, actual tea and a cookie (biscuit for you Brits) while our stock of girl scout cookies last.

Not much work and no exercise today. I think it’s best to avoid our apartment gym for the time being, even though it seems to be both cleaned regularly and barely used at the moment. But with the weather getting warmer and me living next to state-protected natural lands, I’m hoping to sprinkle in long walks with body weight exercises at home. Who knows, this might be the push to actually take up running.

Tomorrow is a Saturday, but honestly, the weekend has little meaning when you’ve spent half the week at home, and the other half preparing to be at home. But I do have a stack of comics to work through, not too quickly. There may be an attempt to replenish groceries at some point. We’re stocked up on toilet paper, no it’s not an excessive amount. But I am glad to be going to bed tonight feeling calmer and clearer than I have in a few days, I hope you will too. And as always, stay safe, stay sane, and take care of each other.

Social Distancing Day 2

Though the title says “Day 2”, don’t be fooled: this is the first day I haven’t left the apartment. After some amount of freaking out over the last two days, I’ve calmed down and am settling into the reality of the situation. I woke up late, didn’t quite eat proper meals, did shower and get dressed and get some work done. It’s a work in progress.

Yesterday I said I’d write about why I’m distancing myself in the first place, so here we go. At this point, I assume most people reading this post know about flattening the curve. The gist is that even though for most people COVID-19 is not life-threatening, there will be a lot of people who do need hospitalization, including intensive care. There is simply not enough capacity in the medical system to deal with those numbers. If a lot of people come down with COVID-19 all at once, it will overwhelm the medical system. There will literally not be enough places in hospitals for everyone who needs a bed, and medical professionals will be stretched thin, heavily exposed to the virus, and overworked, many to the point of death themselves. This stress on the medical system means that people who show up to the hospital for other unrelated reasons are less likely to get the treatment and care that they need.

Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom. The medical system¬†can probably handle a smaller number of severe COVID-19 cases. The point of social distancing is to keep that number down. The fewer people who are infected by the virus at once, the fewer people are likely to need hospitalization, and that means that doctors and nurses have a better change of actually saving those who need it.

I’m a male in my early thirties, with no pre-existing conditions, and in reasonably good health. (Ok, I’ve probably been eating one too many girl scout cookies lately, but who hasn’t?) If I get COVID-19 I will probably be fine and not need hospitalization, though I may be miserable and pretty incapacitated for a couple of weeks. For most of the people in my immediate social circle, the same applies. But some of my colleagues currently have elderly parents staying with them. They are at substantially higher risk, may require hospitalization, and may not survive if the medical system is too stressed. I really do not want to pass the coronovirus on to them. And that is the crux of why I am distancing myself.

(Aside: Many of these parents are helping provide child care, tying the issue of COVID-19 containment and general healthcare to that of access to affordable child care.)

Now, I have no idea whether or not I have the coronavirus. I have no symptoms and haven’t been in contact with anyone I know to have been exposed. I was pretty social up until last weekend. But there currently seems to be pretty much no way to actually get tested where I live, so I’m in the dark. In this case, I would much rather be safe than sorry, especially since my work and lifestyle is actually conducive to social distancing.

And that leads to tomorrow’s entry: what am I doing to stay productive and sane while being at home. Till then, stay safe, stay sane, and take care of each other.

Social Distancing Day 1

Left the apartment today for one last group meeting, and to pick some supplies (include comic books). We’re all preparing to hunker down and go online for the long run. Zoom is our tool choice for the time being, that and GitHub. I took a long walk back from Harvard’s campus back this afternoon. It seemed like a better idea than taking the T, and a way to get some exercise.

At the moment, I’m not too concerned about spending the next few weeks at home. Part of that is having roommates, so I won’t be completely socially isolated. I’m also lucky enough to live near some natural lands, so I’m hoping to get out and about on a regular basis.

However, one thing I am worried about is slipping into vacation mode. I need to pay attention to keeping a more-or-less regular schedule: waking up on time, normal working hours, regular meal times, etc. This is something to think about and start working on tomorrow.

I won’t lie: I’m a little scared. I don’t really interact with elderly people, but the social distancing is a precautionary measure. Given where I live, I would say it’s more likely than thought that I will or have already been exposed to the virus. I’m expecting to be pretty sick for a couple weeks soon and that will be uncomfortable. Hopefully there will be no long-lasting effects. But till that happens I’m hoping to keep up regular exercise, and eating well, including vitamin D and C supplements. Basically, I want to do everything to give my immune system the best chance to fight off the virus when it does come knocking.

Tomorrow I plan on writing more about why I think social distancing is the best thing for everyone, regardless of whether or not they think they’ve been exposed, or what their risk factors are. I’ll also try to set down in writing what I plan to do to make the most of this time.

Till then, stay safe, and take care of each other.

Social Distancing Day 0

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has declared a state of emergency. Harvard is planning to essentially shut down and move classes online at the end of the week. For myself, I’m planning on going into full-blown social distancing. I might go out briefly to stock up on some supplies tomorrow, but other than that, I’ll be hunkering down for a while.

I was half-joking to a friend that I should keep Social Distancing Diaries, but that they might be mind-numbingly boring. We shall see.

I made sure my beefy physical Linux machine was updated and running, connected to the university’s wired network, and that I could connect remotely to it. I wanted to also set up remote access using VNC. But it turns out that neither Chicken VNC nor Tiger VNC send the proper keycodes from my MacBook to my Linux machine. Connecting over SSH will have to do.

Sunday Selection 2020-03-01

Happy Post-Leap-Day, (and beginning of March) everyone! I love it when the end of one month and the beginning on the next falls on a weekend. I’ve been trying to get into the habit of reflecting on the (near) past and making plans for the (not-too-distant) future. The transitions between months and weeks are perfect times to do that, and it’s even more perfect when they align.

This last week I’ve been thinking a lot about routines, rituals, practices and how all of that can cross the line between public and private. I’m hoping to write more about that in the near future, but some today’s selections offer a glimpse into the inputs of those potential outputs.

Warren Ellis Ltd.

Warren Ellis is the brains behind the original Dark Knight comics, as well the recent Castlevania (which is being brought to Netflix). I’ve been reading his weekly newsletter for a few months, but I recently found out he has an old-fashioned daily-ish blog. He’s been using it to post about everything he does each day, as well as think aloud about the future of blogging.

No Algorithms

I added this to my to-blog list months ago but never got around to actually writing about it. Part of what I’ve been thinking about blogging, I’ve been thinking about how we can post, share and discover without being mediated by opaque algorithms that probably don’t have our best interests at heart. I have thoughts on this, but for now you can read what Brett Simmons thinks about it.

For Over 30 Years, A Soba Chef Drew Everything He Ate

I love food, and I love art, so obviously I’m a sucker for something that combines the two. I love the mix of clean, geometric lines, intricate patterns and clear colors. And it reminds me that one of these days I really must go spend some time in Japan.

My Tools and Programs, 2020

As much as I enjoy food and art, I also like learning about people live and work, and in particular what tools they use in the process. I usually go to Uses This to satiate that particular craving, but this post is from writer and photographer John Scalzi. Personally I find the idea of writing anything substantial in Windows to be frightening, but apparently it’s really good at handling long documents.