Three months ago I went to Colombia for a mix of visit-family and visit-colleagues. At the time, COVID-19 wasn’t called that in the media, and travel was still pretty normal.

Work hard, Play hard

Two-and-a-half months ago I jumped in the Amazon river, saw some of the rarest animals on earth, and ate ants. Being far away from COVID-19 was the best protection I could think of.

Hot pink dolphins, Hot green frogs

Two-and-a-quarter months ago I got the last KLM plane out of Bogotá and arrived in an empty Schiphol, took an empty train through an empty Utrecht CS and biked home through empty streets to sit down for at least two weeks of quarantaine (that’s only 35%, though).

Since then, the Netherlands has gone through a phase of dumbassery, then lockdown, then “smart” lockdown, and now restrictions are slowly easing up. I get the sniffles from walking around outside, which qualifies me as symptomatic, so I’ve basically been cooped up inside since then. The “smart” lockdown meant that I could send a kid to the supermarket – and I’m lucky to live within walking distance of a supermarket, with kids whom I can hand a bank card and say “buy oatmeal”.

So these are notes from a position of tremendous privilege. I understand that some indigenous tribes are in danger of annihilation from the disease now that it has spread into the heart of the Amazon. My friends in India are locked inside and can’t go out for fear of police. I can’t help them directly, just be supportive from a long-way off.

Changes in Work

In many ways, very little has changed in the way I work on Free Software projects. I get paid to do so – partly on Calamares, partly on other things – and there simply was no switch-to-remote work for me. Sitting at my desk, two monitors, FreeBSD underneath and Linux VMs in my face, with IRC for realtime communication: that’s been part-and-parcel of work for years now and nothing has changed there.

Except that now there’s people in the house.

One thing I notice is that when kid[1] is at the machine next to mine, it’s distracting. But how distracting, depends on what is on-screen. Java code only a little, until I feel the urge to ask what’s the issue – then I’m the cardboard cutout dog. Geometry Dash also only a little, since the rhythmic clicking of the mechanical keyboard mostly makes the same sound as my own keyboard when I’m doing something derpy like re-indenting chunks of CMakeLists.txt. Minecraft, on the other hand, drives me nuts. I just can’t work sitting next to that.

The Slimbook sees a lot more work now, when I flee to the living room. But that’s where online lessons are happening, so I need to sneak around (sometimes out around the side of the house to cross to the other end of the room) because I don’t want to be broadcast accidentally to 20 students listening to middle-school explanations of quadratic equations. The equations are written on the blackboard painted onto one wall of the room.

kid[0] had final exams cancelled out from under them, so they graduated from school with very little sound or fury. We wrote out a CV together and they now have a job (in “smart” lockdown times!) until the end of the summer and the start of university.

Changes in the Kitchen

Since I live within walking distance of the supermarket and work from home, my daily pattern was go-to-store for lunch (bread, veg, milk) and then go again later in the afternoon to come up with something for dinner (veg, pasta, cheese). Dinner choices are strongly dictated by what’s on sale today (oh, tomatoes? then we’ll have tomato soup).

Now I have to think about a dinner plan, sometimes for several days.

This has been a very learning time for kid[1], who gets sent to the store most often. Generally they get detailed instructions, along with an explanation of what’s planned for dinner. I have learned that “tomato” is too ambiguous – it could mean whole tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, passata di pomodori, or concentrated tomato paste. Kid returned with all of them, just to be sure. Then we had tomato-based dinners for three days.

In some ways this is like onboarding new contributors in a software project: there is all this implicit knowledge and stored experience and assumptions and habits that might need to be passed on. Bread is available at the supermarket but is sold out if you wait until five in the afternoon. Get the frozen spinach last unless it’s on the meal plan for today. I don’t care about what brand of tomato paste; I do care about the brand of pasta (Barilla no. 41 for mac-n-cheese).

Speaking of mac-n-cheese: we tried Kraft Dinner for nostalgic purposes a few times: eww. But here’s a bell-pepper soup that we call “gulyás” because it’s inspired by the real Hungarian thing:

Red and orange dinner bits