I have to say, Some Good News with John Krasinski is a breath of fresh air in this time of quarantine and isolation. John picks up on good news stories from around the world and you’ll have to have a heart of stone not to laugh or cry or both watching them.
There’s the first episode but there are currently 2 more and all are worth watching.
Last Friday they held an SGNProm live on Youtube but I missed it. It was scheduled for one o clock in the morning my time! Hopefully the next episode will have clips from it. Coincidentally I started watching The Office (US) last week. I watched a couple of episodes before but it didn’t stick. I think we’ll be making it a regular watch from now on though. 🙂
I’ve worked from home for almost 15 years now. It’s not always easy, and the first week of the Covid-19 lockdown in Ireland made me realise how cut off I am from other people. I’m not an especially outgoing kind of person but this enforced stay-at-home order is even getting to me. Two to three times a year I travel somewhere to meet my team or the rest of the company but all company travel is cancelled now for the foreseeable future.
I and many others have the luxury and privilege to work from home while there are millions of people sitting idle or bored in their homes. I sit here at my screen but there are health workers risking their lives fighting a disease that looks like it will be a part of our world for the next two years at least.
Shows on TV are now watched with from the perspective of Covid-19. People have the luxury of shaking hands or hugging. People are so close to each other! They can walk into a store 2 at a time! They’re meeting for a drink! That’s a very crowded train!
It’s behind their paywall but my wife has bought the paper on and off for the last few years so I went searching for it today. No sign of it in the two local shops and I wasn’t going to risk going to any more just for a newspaper. We did sign up for the 7 day free trial of their app and I have to admit it looks great. The in-app purchase is easier to cancel than a sub on their website which requires a phone call.
The This Won’t Hurt a Bit podcast is back with two more episodes on Covid-19. Their first episode on March 24th reminded me of the fake cures doing the rounds on Facebook back at the start of March. Drinking warm water to flush any virus from your throat into your stomach to kill it was a favourite but it was oh so stupid.
Everything is local, but everything is also global now. The world feels a lot smaller.
There’s one topic of conversation everywhere now and that’s the coronavirus (WB), SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) which causes the COVID-19 disease. It feels like Europe and North America sleep walked into this, ignoring what was happening in China until it was too late.
This is the first in a maybe series of blog posts that I want to publish for the me in ten years time. For the time when this is all over and some sense of normality has resumed.
Throughout the first week of March companies started telling their employees to work from home. March 2nd, Google told staff in Dublin to do so.
The first reported case (and 7th in the country) of COVID-19 in Cork was in the CUH on Thursday 5th of March. Many felt the Irish Government were slow to react to the crisis.
However last Thursday afternoon, an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced (WB) that schools and other public buildings would be closing at 6pm that day until March 29th. The St. Patrick’s Day Festival would be cancelled. He requested that people practise social distancing, keeping at least 1 meter away from other people. People should stay in their homes. Kids should not mix with the kids in other families. Don’t go visiting grand parents.
Homework was assigned for the 2 weeks, I’m sure much to the dismay of all the kids in my son’s class.
Matt published his great post on distributed work and began it by saying,
Shoppers went mad buying toilet rolls and pasta. Lines for the cash registers over the weekend snaked all around stores. We were told that shops would maintain their supply lines and remain open but in other countries shops are now closed so people are worried.
A consultant respiratory paediatrician, Dr Muireann Ní Chroínín CUH had this to say on March 13th:
“I hope you all stay safe during this difficult time . The children will get through this no problem . Paediatric hospitals are empty in Italy at present after 3 weeks of school closure as the usual viruses stopped circulating . Remember with corona children are vectors not victims . In most epidemics young children are the transmitters . Therefore for school closure to be effective it’s really important that the kids aren’t mixing with other kids while out of school . They will give it to each other silently pass it on to our loved ones. What we do now will contribute to how this develops in cork . Avoid situations that the children will interact . If the community respond to this it will shut it down more than anything we do in hospital . From my experiences in the hospital this last week I would say that corona virus is closer to all of us than we realise and the degrees of separation for all of us is getting narrower . I’m not that good at social media but if this could be shared as widely as possible with parents in cork it will help. This messsage needs to go viral to stop the virus .”
Dr Muireann Ní Chroínín, consultant respiratory paediatrician CUH.
The “wash your hands” mantra was and is still being repeated. There are two numbers to care about. The reported numbers of infections, and the real number. It’s impossible to know the real number. Many with minor symptoms won’t contact their doctor, or maybe even know they have the virus but they’ll still be infectious. There might be 10 times or 100 times the number of infected people in your area. Most countries are trying to slow the spread of the virus by flattening the curve as described here (WB).
The famous Cheltenham races still went ahead in the UK on March 10th. Thousands of Irish people travelled over there, rubbing shoulders and exchanging coughs and sneezes in the enclosed space there. They arrived back to demands they isolate themselves for fear of infecting their families but the Government said no need if they don’t have symptoms perhaps forgetting that people are contagious before they have symptoms ..
Despite the partial lockdown of the country, pubs and restaurants remained open. Over the weekend pubs did a roaring trade prompting the Government to call for their closure from last night. Bars were still open until midnight.
We walked around Blarney on Saturday evening. Pubs and restaurants were open but they didn’t look too busy. People were eating at tables but were well spaced. Christy’s Bar was quiet with people sitting in small groups apart from each other.
On Sunday morning the Feed The Heroes (WB) fundraiser was started to send food to hospital staff around the country. By that evening they had raised more than €24,000 and right now the gofundme (WB) stands at €73,916!
Most countries are putting some sort of lockdown in place. The UK appears to be doing the opposite, allowing the virus to spread through the population to build herd immunity. Days later they urged older people to isolate themselves for up to 4 months, but life seemed to go on as normal over there. Irish people were perplexed at our neighbour’s (in)actions. However, I’ve just read that Boris Johnson wants British people to avoid social contact and work from home so hopefully sense will prevail.
A Tweet on Saturday from Italy showed the difference a few weeks can make. The local paper had one and a half pages of obituaries. Friday’s paper had ten pages dedicated to them. That’s what we all fear could be in store for us.
On Sunday my wife and I needed to get out for a walk. Social distancing doesn’t mean you have to stay inside! Down by the River Martin we went and I have never seen so many families and small groups of people. Everyone was in good form but we all kept our distance and it was great to bump into friends down there, even if we did converse at a distance.
It’s surreal being outside. Whatever the number of reported COVID-19 cases there must be an order of magnitude more cases. Advice has been that it is already all around you in the community and you should act like you already have it but don’t want to give it to someone else. That attitude tends to colour your vision of even a solitary figure walking down an empty street.
Tonight the pubs are closed in Blarney. I think the only restaurant open is the Lantern House, maybe for take away food?
The latest news I’ve seen is that an Irish developed kit might be available in a week that can confirm infection in 15 minutes. Of course someone was bound to perpetuate the stereotype of the drunken Irishman with this comment …
I think it’s hilarious that I can only remember seeing Ireland in the news twice in my recent memory.
3/15/2020 – Pubs in Ireland asked to close due to Coronavirus.
3/16/2020 – Irish developed testing kit to confirm Coronavirus in 15 minutes.
I was feeling optimistic about a vaccine after reading this post, and the news about the kit above is great to help fight it but this video where Joe Rogan interviews Michael Osterholm, an expert in infectious disease epidemiology about the virus has got me down again. Even washing hands may do little to stop you getting the virus, but it’s still very important to do just that.
The economic cost of the virus is biting. It’s estimated that 140,000 may have lost their jobs in less than a week.
Just as I hit Publish I saw that XKCD posted a new comic and it resonates with me. My poor mind.
I really shouldn’t hit Publish so quickly should I? A Buzzfeed article says the UK Government is reversing their earlier strategy!
In this scenario, the Imperial College team predicted as many as 250,000 deaths in Britain.
“In the UK, this conclusion has only been reached in the last few days,” the report explained, due to new data on likely intensive care unit demand based on the experience of Italy and Britain so far.
“We were expecting herd immunity to build. We now realise it’s not possible to cope with that,” professor Azra Ghani, chair of infectious diseases epidemiology at Imperial, told journalists at a briefing on Monday night.
A suppression strategy, along the lines of the approach adopted by the Chinese authorities, “aims to reverse epidemic growth, reducing case numbers to low levels and maintaining that situation indefinitely”.
It requires “a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members”, and “may need to be supplemented by school and university closures”.
An “intensive intervention package” will have to be “maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more)”, the report said, painting an extraordinary picture of what life could be like in the UK for the next year and a half.
You may have noticed that I didn’t embed tweets or the Youtube video above. I also employed the Wayback Machine for as many links as I could. I didn’t embed because doing so exposes you, dear visitor, to cookie tracking by those companies, and the Wayback Machine ensures that I’ll have a snapshot of what we’re seeing online right now, even in the far distant future!
Last September almost 600 employees of Automattic travelled to Whistler in Canada for our annual Grand Meetup. As is now a company tradition a photograph was taken of everyone who attended. It’s a challenge taking a photograph of that many people. Remember how hard it was taking that family photo? The difficulty of getting everyone to look at the camera at the moment the shutter closed, or even just getting everyone in one place is multiplied when you have this number of people.
The last company photo was also taken in Whistler and we took a photo in the that same location again but it wasn’t good enough. The camera wasn’t up high enough, so people in the back were all but invisible in the photo. This photo was taken around the corner, where the photo was taken from a first floor balcony. Plenty of height and a perfect vantage point.
Taking the photo was one challenge, but then came development of the image. The camera had to be handheld because of the location on the balcony but the photographer took plenty of shots so I had a lot of material to work with.
The first issue was lining up the photos and I tried using Affinity Photo. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite up to the job (at least with the knowledge I have, it’s an excellent tool otherwise) but I learned a lot about working with layers and layer masks as I swapped parts of different images around.
Eventually I used Photoshop, loaded 3 photos in a stack and the auto align did a great job of correcting for changes in each photo.
What turned out to be the biggest pain point in developing a photo like this was removing people from the background. Here’s a few of them:
I’m already planning for next year. We’ll get some shots of the background to make it easier to to clone bystanders out, and have more volunteers to help organise the shoot so we make best use of the available space.
This is (most of) Automattic. We’re in the town of Whistler, Canada for the annual Grand Meetup. The company is growing every year, from tiny origins when a small group of us hacked away on a couple of servers to almost 500 now!
In the old days the company portrait was easy. The first one was us seated around a large table. I remember well the one in Breckinridge, Colorado. The whole company fit on the stairs leading up to one of the houses we had rented.
In recent years it’s been a challenge. This year Rose Goldman Simon and I scouted the town of Whistler for suitable locations. Rose had already been around and picked out several so I helped to narrow it down. We’d need:
Somewhere high up for the photographer to stand so as many people as possible could be seen.
Tuesday, the day this was made, was a lovely bright day, but that would play havoc with the photo. We needed a large shaded area.
It needed to be close to where we’re staying. The further away we had to walk the more complicated it would become.
We narrowed it down to two locations. One in front of a local store where there’s a nice courtyard and this location above. This won out despite the fact that sunlight would be shining on the camera lens but a large whiteboard helped keep the sun off. Ironically as people dispersed after the shoot, the shadows crept up past where the camera was which would have simplified things!
Final development of the photo was in Lightroom and Affinity Photo.
You’ll also find the photo on Matt’s blog, and shared by many of my colleagues elsewhere. I’ve also uploaded the full resolution image on Cloudup.com for your viewing pleasure.
I’ve had some sort of online presence for twenty years, and that presence has been this blog for most of that time. When I started posting stuff online, PHP was still a toddler and I used a simple Perl script to merge html files with a content file before it was squirted up to an FTP server for publication. I’ve always put the newest news at the top, pushing older entries down, just like it is now. Ah, the glorious days of editing the file in Vim, copying and pasting posts from the “main” page to my “archive” page. I don’t miss it, WordPress makes that much easier now!
In those early days this site would have been called an “online diary” or journal. Apparently the term “weblog” was coined at the end of 1997 but I didn’t hear about that until a few years later. Blogs have been so very important to me in my personal and professional life so I’m really excited that this blog now lives on a .blog domain at odd.blog!
Automattic is rolling out the .blog domain, and as Matt says,
The namespace is wide open, and if you’re interested in reserving or bidding on your favorite name you can go to get.blog.
I still remember the day in 2005 when Matt asked me to come work for him. I still remember the exact spot I was standing where I took that call. It was only a couple of metres from where I sit typing this now.
Ten years, time has flown. I work for an absolutely amazing company with great people. It’s hard to believe there’s well over three hundred people there now. Remember when you needed an invite? It’s a far cry from WordPress.com today.
I wish I could provide an insightful comment on the challenges and rewards of working remotely but it’s late and I just wanted to get this post out there to mark the day. If you want to experience the remote work lifestyle for yourself, come work with us!
Polldaddy is in Marrakesh for a week, staying in a riad in the medina. We had a delicious lunch today, probably the nicest we’ve had here in the riad and that’s saying something as they’ve all been exceptional.
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