Microsoft Teams has a nifty videoconferencing feature I hadn’t noticed earlier. When you’re in a call with multiple people, you see them in portrait mode. When someone moves to one or the other side in the image, the camera follows them! I suppose it is because the laptop camera itself has a pretty wide-angle shot, and most of it isn’t shown in the conference call. With software it is likely easy to detect where in the image the face of the participant is, and than re-orient the image centered on that person, as long as the edge of the landscape wide-angle shot hasn’t been reached.

My blogging friend David Orban lives close to Bergamo, the epicenter of Italy’s Covid19 epidemic. I had been wondering how he was doing, and last week he posted an update. It reads as an odd mix of being comfortable at home in the spring, a lazy Sunday that in Italy has been stretching over 3 weeks now, personal concerns over family, and the awful realisation that the silence outside actually conveys the enormity of it all:

Since there is no traffic, [ambulances] don’t even use the sirens, in order not to unnerve you. The churches stopped ringing their bells when people die, as it would just keep ringing.

Bookmarked Our Life In Times of COVID-19 (David Orban)

I have been in full lockdown in Italy, outside of Bergamo in the North, which has the highest concentration of infected people and fatal cases, for the past two weeks. The streets are empty. There …

We’ve been in ‘soft lock-down’ for just over 2 weeks now. Soft, because it is lock-down in all but name. You can still be outside, but not anywhere with more than 2 at the same time at the suggested distance of at least 1.5 meters (except if you’re a family). In practice it means only going out for groceries once a week, and getting some fresh air every day while taking a wide berth around anyone you encounter outside.

Two weeks of working from home took some getting used to. Not so much the working from home itself, as I’ve been doing that for over 15 years. But now that everyone else does it too, it has a different feel to it. Increased numbers of conference calls, while before I worked from home regularly precisely to avoid ineffective meetings. The calls, especially the ones with a very distributed group, show you the oddity of our current pandemic status quo. I was in a session with people from multiple continents, and everyone was in the exact same situation, locked down at home. Such a shared context usually doesn’t happen. It’s a quantitative change having qualitative effects.
Some things do require us to find a new normal though. As Y is at home and not at daycare, one of us have to be with her for 95% of the day. She currently can’t go play with her friends so we’re their replacements. Trying to get work done, spending time with Y, and each of us finding the needed alone time, plus the additional house cleaning now that we’re here fulltime is a balancing and logistical challenge we haven’t fully mastered yet.

This last week, I tried to cut back on sychronous communication to avoid being stuck in calls full time, and I started working at 6am, so I could get a few hours of focused work in before anyone tries to call. After 4-5 hours of work, it means I can take most of the rest of the day for other things without leaving too many things unfinished.
E and I will sit down this weekend to plan next week, trying to converge on a more balanced next seven days. I suppose we’ll have plenty of time to get to that point of balance, as by the looks of it we might be here for 4 to 8 weeks yet. Current measures will be evaluated by April 6th, but looking at countries ahead of us on the pandemic timeline such as China and Italy, we will need to stay put possibly until June 1st.

Healthwise we seem to be ok. I’m tired and have been for three weeks, and I also have some minor throat irritation but as that is mostly at the end of the day it may as well come from talking too much. Also because it started that way, three weeks ago we had a meet-up of some old university friends and some very loud singing was involved leaving my voice less than optimal. The air is very dry outside, and we notice that too in our nose and throat, so our humidifiers throughout the house are working hard.

Economically we’re fine too. It is a source of worry of course, as an employer and chairing the board of an NGO that also employs seven people. Last week I spent time to make sure still open invoices were paid on time, to strengthen liquidity. This week I landed a new contract with a client, that for the coming months will ensure we’re fine, and with two others close to signing we’ll be ok this year I think. Having government clients in this situation is helpful as they’re not trying to slow down at their spending at this time, which most private sector companies are doing.

I’m grateful the past two weeks saw plenty sunshine, even if it was chilly. It allowed us to be outside in the garden, and walk/cycle in the neigbourhood.

Overall the past two weeks were very busy. I didn’t find time to blog much either. Certainly not any reflective stuff. I see others doing that, concerning the tools we now are using en masse all of a sudden, and their privacy implications. Things that have changed now and might stick even if the current urgency is gone. How this might have an impact on digital transformation. How internet retail has ballooned. Whether we will realise how much time is wasted in offices. Etc. etc. I have thoughts about all those things. I have stacks of books to read around those topics. But these past 2 weeks were about addressing immediate concerns and minimising predictable risks, ensuring continuity while much around us is stalling or at least slowing down for the foreseeable. Time ran away without much room to carve out personal time, let alone be reflective about anything.

Next week looks less hectic in comparison.

It is a bit like an endless Sunday yes. The empty streets, and until now the sunshine. Except maybe for the deluge of conference calls I get pulled into, which is more akin to fighting flood waters at the front door. Need to find me some digital twins to sand bags.

The perpetual Sunday feeling made me realise I now have a better notion of how the cats feel when we are away for a few days. When we get back home and they wake-up on the couch and stretch out it’s like they say “this has been a really long weekend….”. It will be weeks, if not months before we get to do that stretching. Perpetual Sundays, now there’s a title for a podcast.

Liked Le dimanche perpétuel [fr] by Stephanie BoothStephanie Booth

Je viens de faire un petit tour dans le quartier avec mes jambes et mes bâtons. Peu de monde, beaucoup de calme. J’ai toujours aimé les dimanches et les jours fériés, ici, où tout est fermé et rien ne bouge.
Cette période c’est comme un dimanche, mais tous les jours…..