Hopped on the turbo trainer for my usual Saturday morning session and found that I can’t shift gears. Our local bike shop has a backlog of a month, so it looks like I’m going to be a runner for the next four weeks.

“Yes, it really sucks.”

Probably confirmation bias, but Bill Plaschke’s column in the Los Angeles Times on his relatively mild experience with COVID-19 has strengthened my resolve to keep safe.

I wore a mask everywhere. I followed all the rules, but a couple of weeks ago I didn’t follow my instincts. I briefly let my guard down. The coronavirus came out swinging.

The weekend before my symptoms appeared, for the first time in four months, I met friends for two dinners at two socially distanced patio tables. Nobody is required to wear masks at the tables, so I removed my mask when I sat, as did my dining partners, and we left them off during the entire time we were at the table.

I didn’t do anything that was prohibited, right? I was just following the rules, right?

My guess is that I caught it there.

Last week it was so hot in the UK, with the odd thunderstorm and downpour, it felt as though we had suddenly turned into Singapore. I even started to get weird new visitors to my office that I had never seen before.

Weeknotes #80 — Monthnotes, again…

I’ve found it difficult to put the time aside over the past four weeks to write up any weeknotes. The days and weeks whizz by one after the other and are filled with stuff. Sunday night rolls around and it’s very hard to settle down to write while my eyes are falling out of my head and a sweet song of sleep drifts down the stairs from my bed to my ears.

Big events from the past month are where I…

  • Gave into the fact that we had to buy a new car. Being offered £50 for part-exchange of our old one at the dealership proved the point. It’s been lovely owning an old jalopy that we cared little about for the past few years. It meant that we could offer an “Oh, don’t worry about it” when a neighbour admitted to reversing into our car door. The whole process of buying a replacement filled me with dread — it’s a classic paradox of choice, where too many options made it almost impossible to get started. We were fortunate to have a friend to guide us in the right direction and now have something that we need to give a little more respect to.
  • Visited my wife’s parents for her dad’s 80th birthday. I wasn’t happy to stay anywhere local so we spent five hours in the car there and back, but had a lovely time in their garden. We hadn’t seen them since Christmas, and it was great to be with them all again.
  • Continued to push forward with all of the key projects within my team, covering:
    • New telephone systems in New York, São Paulo and Beijing, including decisions on whether we’ll need physical handsets in the future
    • A ‘minimum viable office’ LAN/WLAN/SD-WAN network setup and desktop equipment in two of these offices
    • Agreeing a support model and vendor for Asia
    • Coordinating a massive data migration from an on-premises shared drive to Teams/SharePoint Online, including training all of our staff in how to work with the new tools
  • …as well as many smaller initiatives that we are running. We are up against some hard deadlines for some of this work, and every day I am cycling through the list, looking to see if there is anything else we can be doing to inch them forward.
  • Interviewed a number of people for two key roles in our team where I will be a peer of the successful candidates. Interviewing over video calls really loses something compared to meeting candidates in person, but we’re getting used to it.
  • Ran a number of Steering Committee meetings for our function and my projects, all of which went well. I asked the question of one of the committees whether the meetings were useful and giving us what we needed, which prompted a very rich discussion. As a result, we’ll be changing the format for the next one in September.
  • Attended a splendid virtual summer ‘Picnic on the Green’ organised by our wonderful Marketing and Communications colleagues. Staff around the globe were sent beautiful food hampers that corresponded to their dietary preferences and time of day of the event in their country. We even had treats for our pets! We all met up on Teams, had an interesting talk from a brilliant presenter while we ate, took part in a magic show, and then heard some great music to finish things off. There was so much thought and love that went into this, and it really showed.

  • Glowed with pride as our CTO presented the details of our IT platform to the wider firm, with over 500 IT colleagues joining the live session. The building blocks of our setup are simple, and hide a lot of thought that was put into how we would make it great.
  • Embarked on Salesforce Trailhead training along with thousands of other people across our firm. The gamification of learning really seems to be working, particularly when the push is being encouraged from the top of the company.
  • Picked up some books on platform businesses, as this seems to be the buzzphrase of the moment. I’ve been grateful for my Stratechery subscription and have been digging through old posts on the topic, as well as watching his excellent talk from 2018 on platforms vs aggregators.
  • Continued to exercise regularly, but have now incorporated the odd day off when I feel that I need it. I’ve tried to add running back into my schedule alongside the cycling on the turbo trainer and I think this is doing me some good. If I run after too much time off I end up walking around like Clint Eastwood for days afterwards, so I’m keep to keep it up. I’ve also worked out how to set up a cycling plan in TrainerRoad where there is no particular goal in mind, and now have sessions mapped out for the next twelve months. I can’t believe I used to regularly unsubscribe from TrainerRoad due to under-use; keeping fit is definitely a massive upside to the lockdown.
  • Had fun with Cameo, bringing a surprise birthday message to a friend via James Buckley, a special ‘Hooooo!’ to my twin brothers via ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan, and a message of congratulations to our department head from Jody Watley. All of their faces lit up in every case, and they were well worth it.
  • Smiled as I watched my eldest boy take up a newspaper round. It has brought back so many memories for me. Getting himself up to work every day at 6:30am is good discipline, and the money will soon add up.
  • Had a couple of visits at home from networking firms, looking for a solution to get a better network signal out to my home office. The first proposal suggested point-to-point Wi-Fi and the second is for an Ethernet cable that would run around the perimeter of my house. I’m waiting to get a third opinion and quote from another company in the next week or so.

Next week: My last full week before a few days off. With a technical colleague away, I’m on my own in trying to close out some quotes for installations in São Paulo and Beijing so that we keep our momentum.

Coronavirus anxiety

Although I’m now five months into new routines and a new way of life, I’ve been finding that my anxiety level has been creeping back up during the summer. The vast majority of my friends and family seem to have gone back to normal, pretty much giving up on social distancing. I feel that I want to shout out loud that there is still a pandemic on — the phrase that keeps coming back to me is the one uttered by Clark Griswold in the original National Lampoon’s Vacation when his family appeal to him to give up on their road trip to Wallyworld. “I think you’re all ****** in the head!” I understand the massive desire to get back to some kind of normality, I just don’t agree with taking the risks. I know that because of this, people think I am being ridiculous.

“You’re unlikely to get sick from it as you are relatively young and fit.” Yes, thankfully that’s true. But there’s a chance I could get it and be one of the unlucky ones for whom it has serious implications. The idea of having ‘long COVID’ doesn’t sound good either. And then, even if I caught it and had no symptoms at all, I could easily spread it to anyone else I come in contact with.

“I think it’s ok to sit in a restaurant as long as they have the windows open.” Yes, airflow reduces the risk, but why take the risk in the first place? Is it worth it? This is a highly contagious airborne virus; you need to take your mask off to eat, and you’ll be sitting close to your friends at the same table and potentially exposing yourself unnecessarily to the virus over a number of hours.

“There are lots of other things out there that you could get, or could happen, that could kill you.” That’s true, but there’s not many of those that we end up shutting down half of the world for because of the potential harm that they bring.

The more that people I know go back to normal, the less I want to see them, as I don’t trust that they have been careful in managing their own risk. I’m currently not prepared to sit in a restaurant indoors, visit my friends or family in their homes or have visitors to our house where they would spend their time inside. It has been difficult at times over the past few weeks where even those of us living under the same roof have had different opinions about the risks, but we’re managing our way through it.

Perhaps my anxiety partly comes from getting so wrapped up in following politics over the past half decade or so. I am deeply distrustful of our government and the people around them. I’m highly sceptical that they have our best interests at heart, or are competent enough to do a good job even if they did. Managing a pandemic at a government level must be unimaginably complex, and our collection of ministers are second-rate at best. I know that I have to take complete personal responsibility for myself.

“Look at the case numbers in the UK though, they are flat.” That’s been true for the past few weeks, but they are on the rise again. Have we ever had a good test and trace regime that we can rely on here in the UK? Would the government tell us the truth if the numbers were not good? We know that there is probably a two-week lag time between exposure and developing symptoms or becoming contagious yourself, so who knows how many cases are really out there.

I am in an extremely privileged and fortunate position of having a very caring employer who has allowed us to work from home since mid-March. We are unlikely to be asked to go back to the office any time soon. I know that for a lot of people things haven’t stopped or changed during this whole pandemic — they have had to get out to work, my wife included — and I am in awe of them. I also understand that we are social creatures and there is a need for us to meet and connect with each other. I just don’t understand why people would take unnecessary risks such as dining in restaurants with friends or meeting in each other’s houses when there’s no need to.

This weekend my wife and I took a rare walk into town together to buy a coffee. As soon as we got anywhere near other people I put my mask on and didn’t take it off until we were almost home, well clear of everyone else. Maciej Ceglowski’s post from back in April, called Let’s All Wear A Mask, is the kind of logical argument that speaks to me as he outlines his case brilliantly. But it’s clear from my stroll around town that masks are generally seen as an inconvenience and only worn for going into shops, if at all.

I am trying to check and question myself. Sometimes I feel like I’m probably the one in the wrong as everyone else seems to be taking it easy with a relaxed attitude to the risks, but then I just work through the logic again and find myself right back at the start.

Just had that ‘difficult fourth lockdown home haircut’ by my wife. More Vince Clarke than Nicky Clarke, but at least my garden is a safe environment to get it done.

Helped my 13-year-old son out on his paper round this morning. Brought back lots of memories from when I had my round 30 years ago. So many Daily Mails though 😕.

Another Wahoo Tickr heart rate monitor failed on me this morning. The metal popper seems to get fatigued, presumably from sweat, and shears off. I put the first one down to bad luck, but will try for a refund on this one.