What a month March has been.
The rumble-that-became-a-roar this month was the outbreak of COVID-19. Stealing the title from this excellent article by Jonathan Borichevskiy, “coronavirus has infected my brain”. The last few weeks have involved the situation spiraling from a phenomena happening “out there” to something all-encompassing.
The first thing to affect me, which now seems incredibly trivial, was that I needed to cancel a trip to South Korea I'd been planning. It was clear early on that this trip was not going to happen.1 Next was a work trip to SF that I had to cancel, but that's just as well because the city is in “shelter-in-place”.
Then, it hit closer to home. King County was the first place in the US to get hit hard by the virus. The now-infamous “Life Care Center” in Kirkland is only blocks away from some of our weekly hangout spots. I've driven by the Evergreen Hospital in which the first coronavirus death occurred countless times.
I think I've been on Twitter more in the last month than any time since the run up to the 2016 election— Benjamin Congdon (@BenRCongdon) March 12, 2020
To be clear, I think this is a rational response to the circumstances. But, it is still somewhat incomprehensible to me that the US went from “life as normal” to “major urban cities shutdown” in a matter of weeks.
I've been keeping a list of the crazy events that happening each day, just to remind myself of the passage of time. It's been a weird, weird few weeks. – And it seems like the next couple weeks will contain a lot of uncertainty and scary news.
But, I've been trying to keep myself busy/distracted from the continual spectacle of the outbreak and society's response to it. The rest of this post is more-or-less what I've been doing to cope.
I've been working on a minor refresh of my blog for a while now. There wasn't anything particular about my blog's design that I didn't like, but it was starting to feel a bit stale.
The biggest change was removing Bootstrap. I setup my blog using Bootstrap 3. When Bootstrap 4 was released, I tried to upgrade but ran into a bunch of subtle issues. In the end, I realized I was really only using Bootstrap for its grid system and some minor styling (buttons, etc).
- Started a basic Blogroll to showcase the blogs/people that I enjoy reading.
- Added a new favicon. I'm no graphic designer, but hey.
- Chose a more accessible color pallate and worked to make all my pages and links as accessible as possible. (If there's areas for improvement, please let me know!)
The refresh also involved shaving many yaks, mainly with CSS, too many to list here.
I made a loaf of Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick's day. The recipe is dead simple; you don't even need to knead the dough or worry about proofing times (because it uses baking soda as a chemical leavener, instead of yeast). It turned out quite tasty! I've been eating it with various soups and stews that I've made this week.
Since I'm going to have a lot of time on my hands for the next few weeks, I also stared a sourdough starter (using this guide). Some of my family are gluten-free, so I also started a sourdough starter with gluten-free flour. I have no idea if it'll work, but it will be a fun experiment.
In other cooking news, I learned how to prepare dried beans.
At work, we just entered our 3rd full week of working from home. The first couple days were, understandably, pretty unproductive. I had to scramble to get some adapters for my laptop and setup a suitable place in my apartment to do video conferencing.
Fortunately, things have settled into a more stable rhythm. I don't think I'm back to my in-office productivity level, and I miss having a clear distinction between “home” and “work”. However, I'm very grateful to be able to continue to work through the outbreak – for many reasons.
Here's some other things that I found interesting in the past few weeks:
- The Seattle Symphony has been streaming full concerts in response to the COVID-19 outbreak on their Youtube Channel.
- I've been enjoying Pablo Meier‘s ~daily blog posts. Here's one on browsers and another on the new Animal Crossing.
- StarSlateCodex has had 2 interesting speculative posts about coronavirus:
- There have been a lot of “WFH tips” blog posts floating around in the past few weeks, but I found Alice Goldfuss’ Work in the Time of Corona to be the most actionable, personally.
- John Scalzi has had 2 good COVID-19 adjacent posts: one containing his raw reactions to the short-term crisis, and another one about how to think about the medium-term implications of what he's coined “The Great Pause”.
Stay healthy out there!