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Under Siege

Started: 2020-05-17 21:22:18

Submitted: 2020-05-17 23:36:11

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator's world reaches an uneasy equilibrium with COVID-19

It's been more than two months since COVID-19 took over my life, and now we've reached an uneasy equilibrium: we're under siege from the virus, but it's staying outside and we're staying inside. As long as I spend the vast majority of my time inside my house I can minimize my potential exposure. I wear a mask when I go walking outside, and on the rare occasions when I enter a store I use hand sanitizer on my way in and out (and I wash my hands again when I get back to the house). The tiny corner grocery store a few blocks from my house has food preparation gloves set out at the entry, which is a nice touch. Based on what I know about the transmission of the virus it's difficult to imagine any credible transmission vectors.

But the virus is still looming outside, besieging us outside the walls, threatening us when we step out. We're going to be under siege for many months or years, even as we win small tactical battles to shift the equilibrium at the margins.

(One morning last week I woke up sniffling with a sore throat and a light headache, and I tried to remember everything I'd done in the last three or five or fourteen days that might have exposed me to COVID-19; but by the afternoon my sniffling had given way to sneezing and I was pretty sure it was just seasonal allergies. I do think it's plausible, though, that the ugly cold Kiesa had the last week of February may have actually been COVID-19 (which suggests that I was also exposed, along with the rest of the household, but we remained asymptomatic). At the time no one was being tested without a credible direct link to China, but in retrospect it's obvious that there had been community transmission in Seattle for weeks before that. We'll never know for sure without a high-specificity serological test, though, and none of us are likely to get one.)

Macbook and portable monitor on roof
Macbook and portable monitor on roof

The rain stopped long enough to sit on the roof in the afternoon sun with my laptop and a portable monitor -- just an LCD panel with an HDMI input. (I bought the portable monitor in the first week of the "recommended WFH", when my employer strongly suggested I not come in to the office but no formal closures had been announced. I thought I might go work from a beach for a couple of days while I still could, but the window of opportunity passed and the monitor remained unused until now.) The monitor doubled my screen real estate, but even with an external battery to power the monitor and the brightness cranked up to 100% it was difficult to read in the bright afternoon sun. But the experiment functioned as a proof-of-concept that I plan to replicate in the future, to the extent that the weather cooperates.

White and orange California poppies
White and orange California poppies

The biggest thing that still worries me is how precisely I'm going to move to the Bay Area this year, and on what timeline; but I have a handful of credible leads so I think that's on track, even as I lack specificity in the details. I expect I'll be working remotely even then, but I'd like to be living in the right city so that my kids are enrolled in their school (whether or not they actually have a physical school year that starts in the fall, I assume they'll go back to school eventually) and that, whenever my next employer makes it possible to go into the office (maybe later this year, maybe next year) I will be in the right place to do so.

So that's my plan; and only time will tell how well it survives contact with reality.

Modern mobile phones make my head hurt, and I speak as the owner of a
sheepskin that proclaims me to hold a degree in computer science.
- Charles Stross, What I want for Christmas