88 thoughts on “March 23, 2020: Long Haul”

  1. My work situation is largely unchanged, other than that I have two coworkers now in other parts of the house. For most of my Agile team 18 though, it's a brave new world. I've made it my job to randomly call or IM each of them and check in how it's going. I have one with five kids at home (the oldest in 7th grade) who will be splitting up his work hours, and I've given him permission to miss our 9AM calls if necessary, or we can hit him up first so that he can then be on his way, which hopefully he'll take me up on.

    Our lower management is doing a good job of passing along WFH tips, and they are stressing that work schedules should be flexed as much as necessary to handle the new everyday activities -- they just want to stress (rightly so) that they still expect things get done.

    1. It is definitely interesting to see different management styles in action through this. I'm one of 3 people (who are all client on-sites) who don't really fit with any team, but one VP has kind of adopted us during this time and kept us in the loop much better than our direct manager (whose metrics handed down from the top don't align with our work at all, so *shrug*).

      The hardest part is that my client's priorities really shifted as a result of everything going on and they don't have the ability to work with me/my company as closely as a result. It kind of is what it is, that work is more important (in my opinion) than the joint projects we were previously working on.

  2. I am continuing to go to the church office at present. I'm alone there most of the time anyway. The only other people who are coming around now are a twelve-hour-a-week secretary (who has a separate office) and the two people who help livestream the services on Sundays and Wednesdays,

    1. Since our church has e-giving capabilities, we've offered other neighboring churches that option as well, where folks can donate from a specific link/category on our giving page, and we will then cut them a check for the total. It's hopefully helping them keep staff paid and missions going a while longer.

      1. The Gettysburg church is trying to get electronic giving started. It should've been done a long time ago, but I guess better late than never.

  3. My sister works at a small town (~200 pop) bank branch. She is irate about management not closing the branch and the clientelle not taking things seriously.

    1. It's hard with the mixed messages. Keeping banking secure is probably important for preventing a much bigger panic.
      DHS has a pretty long list of critical infrastructure. And a lot of them are loosely defined.

       Workers who are needed to process and maintain systems for processing financial transactions and services (e.g., payment, clearing, and settlement; wholesale funding; insurance services; and capital markets activities)
       Workers who are needed to provide consumer access to banking and lending services, including ATMs, and to move currency and payments (e.g., armored cash carriers)
       Workers who support financial operations, such as those staffing data and security operations centers

        1. A lot of small-town banks don't have a drive-thru option.

          Out town has shut down the lobby, is using the nighttime drop box for deposits, and is doing appointments for everything else.

      1. Oh yeah, totally get it

        She wants the lobby closed, with one person doing all the mandated bank things that a bank must to do, y'know, be a bank, and one person fielding phonecalls etc.

        They're small enough to not have a drive-thru (but also small enough to make house calls in an emergency) Problem is there's so many people in her community that only trust cash.

  4. In case you're wondering, fermentation is still a thing in the plague times. The ipa is bubbling away. Might be time to start pickling things.

    1. Might be time to start pickling things.

      Now that’s some working from home I can get behind! I made sour kraut a couple of weeks back, and it ended up being delicious. I’m trying to decide what to do next. I wish it was okra season, because some spicy pickled okra sounds delicious.

    2. I have pickles and preserved lemons underway. Thinking about other veg when the pickles are ready and I can free up the crock.

      Also, no-knead bread is a thing again.

      1. Before the lock down, I bought a Pinor Noir home kit + corks. Dude said they were shutting down at 5PM. Time for some bottle washing.

  5. Figuring out how to get 30K call center employees set up to work from home when the organization hasn't put any planning on how to do so is going exactly as well as one would expect.

    1. I've only heard of two minor glitches; one was conference call phone issues (Verizon problems) the first day and the other was degraded performance for a few hours which turned out to be a load-balancing problem with the firewall servers -- both were dealt with. Haven't heard of anything since *knock on wood*

  6. My teaching job duties have remained mostly the same, though delivery method is now drastically different. I’ve got one more week to get everything up and running, with online classes starting back up on the 29th. So far I have been spending most of my work time helping the less technologically inclined faculty get things started, but as we get closer I’ve got to get going building everything for my students. I think it’s going to be a busy week.

  7. We bought a new (super cheap, pre-packaged) computer for the kids to do their school work while at my office. Because it is at my office it has access to my wifi (though I'll not give it any direct access to the file system). My rudimentary understanding of hacking suggests that my whole system might somehow be vulnerable because this computer now accesses my wifi. I may be entirely wrong about that. I know very little about this sort of thing. I run Norton on all of my work computers (as recommended by the guy who set up my network), but am out of adds for that, and would need to upgrade.

    So I'm curious about recommended security in a situation like this. Would some sort of "home" style of security be best? What program? Do I need to re-evaluate my work system too? Should I restrict my children to a specific browser, as they go access all the various educational programs they need? Etc. Any advice/expertise anyone has is much appreciated.

    1. Your understanding is correct. There are ways to fix it. The easiest way could be to have separate wifi for potentially untrusted devices, such as a guest network. If your wifi comes from the same device as the modem (a combo modem and router) then it might not be possible to split it the networks without first splitting up the devices.

      I can't comment on home security to filter internet access.

    2. Yep, as sean mentioned, your understanding is spot on and his suggestion of a guest network.

      But I'll add, it's not just this new computer it's anything that uses the wifi. Which is why the Internet of Things is so vulnerable. Say you have a wifi printer - well that talks to your computer right? How else would you print something wirelessly? Well you may have pretty good security on your computer itself, but what's guarding the printer? Someone could connect through the printer, then use that to get into the computer from there. And every device you add, a nother potential avenue of access is opened. Which is why you'll never catch me with a wifi or bluetooth enabled Fridge, toaster, coffee pot, etc.

      1. I'm with you on those home items - I see no need for wifi fridge, etc. But at the office, I pretty much need my wireless printer and scanner. This leaves me with a big question: is there pretty much no way to protect the network against such devices being accessed (in which case there's just a choice to be made about risk vs. reward), or is there a preferred method. If I put those devices on a guest network, can I still access them the same way from my computer, or do they need to be on the same network to be effective?

        Also, I do have two separate networks - one identified as [moniker]2.4 and one as [moniker]5. Should I be connecting some devices to one, and some to the other? Would that just do the work of a guest network?

        For all my praise of rural communities, this is one area where I have found a big challenge - I had what seemed to be a good IT guy locally, but he moved, and the nearest reasonable replacement is more than an hour away.

        1. You'll want your computer and any devices you absolutely need it to communicate directly with on one network, and everything else - new computer, smartphones, etc - on the other.

          Best thing you can do is make sure the drivers and firmware are all up-to-date on any peripheral devices, and run updates regularly on your computer. Known security flaws are always being patched, so being up to date will be your biggest defense.

          1. To clarify, the 2.4 and 5 are not separate networks, they're separate receivers. By giving them the same SID and password, you allow things to choose which receiver provides the best throughput.*

            *this is all my understanding

            1. Networking isn't my forte, so I'm not sure if 2.4/5 is the same or different as having Network/Network_GUEST

            2. Correct. They are separate networks but devices have the ability to switch between them if they have the same SSID. I think that's a usability thing added to devices. 2.4 GHz has much better range but less capacity while 5 GHz has a shorter range but much faster. Something like 100 Mbps best case on 2.4 GHz and 800 Mbps best case on 5 GHz. Most internet connections don't exceed 50-100 Mbps so either is fine. The downside is with the greater range of 2.4 GHz, more devices can use it and negatively impact the speed for everyone.

              1. Unless you've ignored router warnings and created separate SSIDs for each, and specifically pointed your cellphones and/or PC/laptops to the 5GHz, which I know someone might be doing.

        2. The issue with IoT is they access the internet. Think of them as cheap plastic toys. They're quickly made, shipped, and never supported again. A networked printer isn't inherently a problem, though they tend to not be particularly secure overall. Basic networked printers don't reach out to the internet so it's harder to exploit them. If someone gains access to your network, then they could leverage the printer in an attack, but I wouldn't be too concerned about it really. Turning it off when not in use would solve it.

          1. Yeah, just hiding your SSID and making sure your router password is secure should be plenty. I'd worry more about network cameras, microphones, and Alexa than a networked printer anyway.

            1. Hiding the SSID is useless. Use a strong password for your network, the one that everyone groans and rolls their eyes* about, if you want it to be secure. You may have regrets every time you set up a TV device and have to use the remote for an onscreen keyboard. Persist. It doesn't happen very often. There are tools to generate passwords that avoid commonly confused characters too.

              * You know, uh, hypothetically.

    3. I run Norton on all of my work computers (as recommended by the guy who set up my network), but am out of adds for that, and would need to upgrade.

      If you're using Windows, the built-in Microsoft Defender (formerly Windows Defender) is all you need. I've seen too many cases where antivirus programs create new security holes and they are an active impediment to browser makers further securing the browsers.

      1. Yep, I think the default Windows security as good as anything you'll find out there. I think there's just a big perception that it's not sufficient, going back decades at this point.

        1. Yes, this. My perception is this. And I have to admit, despite knowing that I know nothing, I am finding it very challenging to give up this perception.

      2. So why does the new windows machine recommend McAfee? Is it all about the dollars?

        Honestly, it feels really risky to consider taking an anti-virus program off of my computer and just trusting Windows Defender... I always thought Windows/Microsoft was part of the problem?

        1. Yes. Any program unrelated to Windows that came installed on your computer was because the manufacturer was paid to do so. It does drive down the price in exchange for your time to wipe it clean.

          I always thought Windows/Microsoft was part of the problem?

          Story time! The short version is you are absolutely correct. Windows security was truly awful up through the Windows XP days. Eventually there was an edict to improve the security and it has. The first steps were with XP SP3. Vista was in part poorly received because the added security broke compatibility. Companies eventually caught up to the new rules and Microsoft released Windows 7 without the same Vista baggage. Windows Defender, then only anti-spyware, was previously a free download but was included with Vista and then superseded by antivirus Microsoft Security Essentials (now Microsoft Defender). Microsoft continues to add new security features to Windows so it's one of the most secure OS available. Apple also does good work, albeit in a more restrictive way.

          As to why third-party antivirus is a problem, it's how they operate. In order to identify malware, these programs have to hook into deep, internal areas of Windows and need to evaluate everything that happens to identify the malware. Those hooks often have their own security problems that are easier to exploit. Think of it like someone with a full face mask but offers to shake hands without any gloves. These programs will also sometimes disable security features in Windows to make it easier (or possible) to scan your system. Finally, because so much happens in the browser these days, they all invasively attach to the browsers and cause problems there. More advanced security options aren't used because it will cause the antivirus programs to break the browser and the browser gets blamed for it. In long, they suck. Stick with Microsoft Defender. It also has had security issues but has proved to be the least problematic and not negatively impacting overall security.

  8. Hey Beowulf fans, here is a link to some upcoming virtual Beowulf performances done by the Walking Shadow theater Company. I saw this performance last year at the Fringe Festival and was real good. Also not in Olde English (or whatever that language was) so pretty accessible and definitely suitable for probably ages 10 or 12 and above but still very faithful to the story. You can imagine 700 years ago and some traveling minstrel performing this in your village square.

    Lots of times and pay what you can. Good way to entertain yourself during this time and support a local theater company, which obviously is really hurting these days.


    1. And with that, my wife's boss is finally letting her try to work from home. But they only have one workstation so she gets to do the first couple days as a trial and then they will be rotating, despite the fact they aren't seeing any clients anymore.

      1. The situation is exposing a lot of gaps in our work infrastructure, that’s for sure. (And, for us, anyway, it’s revealing how well — or not — our home is set up, too.)

        I’ve been dealing with a lower back problem for over a month, which I re-injured a couple weeks ago. I’ve been missing my office’s standing desk. Today I’ve thrown in the towel and am now working from our Sixties-era bar downstairs. The counter is not quite high enough, but it’s better than our chairs.

        1. geez, you too? My lower back is killing me* -- thank God I have a stand-up workstation.

          *best I can guess is I was sitting too long with a good book the lion's share of the weekend.

          1. I bought an adjustable from Costco in the fall after we moved. It is a lifesaver now. But, uhh, it does exacerbate other inflammatory issues, down below my lower back.... 😬

            1. Are you saying you need to go back to Costco for matching bathtubs to set up in the backyard?

              1. Heh. No, although a sitzbath would be nice.

                You younglings will understand some day. All my years of being a flaming asshole ....

        2. Not to go all forbidden zoney, but ah, those gaps were pretty predictable considering our dearly departed administration.

          I've got a nice set up where I work from my La-Z-Boy. Got my mouse on an end table and my 3D mouse on an arm rest. No back problems here.

  9. I woke up at midnight because my daughter was lying in her bed, sobbing. OMG. That hurt. We talked for a while, well, I did most of the talking. She went to sleep and she's been pretty okay today. But, man, I'm afraid of how this situation is going to affect her mental health. And the mental health of millions of Americans.

    1. My wife' mental health is definitely taking a hit. She's had several panic attacks re: bringing a new baby into this /gestures broadly.

      Lots of nights where she (read: we) are up from 1AM til 3 or 4 and she can fall back asleep

    2. My mentor's daughter is at Brown, and was exposed to the virus via a professor. She was rounded up in her dorm room by Rhode Island's department of health - all wearing space suits - and quarantined in a safe house until she was able to be tested -- 10 days. She flew home to New Mexico and is currently living in the mother in law suite on their property by herself without contact for at least 15 days. He told me that she's been traumatized by the experience.

    3. My kids. 19 and 20. Both in college and sent home early. On line studies. My daughter feels like she is being robbed of her college experience, but for the most part is ok. My son. Grandma dies last fall. Witness in a murder down by the U of M. Gets mono. Now this. We had dinner last night and an argument turned into a long talk. Apparently he has some friends who struggle with addiction and have pondered suicide. He is so stressed out and depressed himself. The stress of trying to stay caught up in his engineering classes has him on the edge of breaking. We gave him the option of pulling out of this semester and maybe taking a year off to clear his head. Closely monitoring him on a daily basis right now. My wife is stressed about money, but she is always stressing about money. Me? I don't have time to stress out or worry. Every minute of everyday is a track meet right now. Except when I sneak on to the Worlds Greatest Online Magazine.

        1. Me too.

          I had a similarly rough ride through college - minus the murder but plus death of my best friend. Hard road, but not impossible to pass through. Counseling is key in my opinion.

          1. I didn't have the life-or-death events, but can relate. Knee injury, mild depression, academic probation, knee surgery, lost 40 lbs, went home, knee surgery (again). I got through with friends, a supportive family, luck and grit. I didn't "need" counseling, but it might have helped.

            And, more generally, asking for help is a sign of strength, not failure.

          2. i do have some personal experience to share with my son. I had a friend in college who was kidnapped and murdered by a convict who had recently been released. One of my fraternity brothers was killed in a car accident. One of my high school classmates committed suicide. My Mom died of cancer. All happened withing 18 months of each other. My biggest advice to my son was this: I have never been one to let things outside my control bring me down. Yes, I grieve. Yes, I brood at times. But generally speaking, I am an optimist. I regularly try to inventory the positive things in my life. There are always sooo many people who have it worse off than I do. As long as I have people around me who love me, and I love back, there is always hope of living a happy life. Ride out the storm and the sun will shine on your eventually.

      1. Wishing your son unflagging confidence in your love and his worth & potential, and that those things are enough to get through the darkest of times.

        What Doc sayid about asking for help being a sign is strength is true. Even these days, I imagine that’s a message young men need to hear more than once.

        On the academic side, dropping the courses now — my institution has extended its drop deadlines as a result of shifting online — may help reduce some of the immediate stress, and could put him in a more advantageous position when he’s ready to return. Generally speaking, Drops are not Fs. They are an administrative note that merely indicates a student was in a class until a certain time. Institutional policies vary a bit by university or college. If an advisor or academic dean is available, it still would be a good idea for your son to discuss any change in enrollment before he makes it.

        Take care of yourself, too. I can’t imagine the kind of pressure you’re facing right now with your restaurant and the people you feel responsible to and for. Remember you can’t keep grinding forever if you don’t give yourself a little time for recovery.

    4. The balance between physical health and mental health has me very concerned. Of course, it's easy to say that when you're physically healthy. But this is going to be very hard on a large number of people.

    5. I was thinking yesterday that, as an introvert raised in Minnesota to typically be minding my own business, I’d bet I usually keep my distance from people as a default. But now that there’s an actual reason to do so, it makes me really uncomfortable being out and about, even for recommended activities like taking a walk or grocery shopping. And other people have a lot more reason to be wary than I do.

      So, yeah, I think you’re right this is going to have a huge mental health impact and good luck to your daughter, you, and everyone out there.

    1. There is one particular lie that gets repeated every day in the press briefings: We inherited an obsolete system for dealing with this. The reality is: We dismantled the previous administration’s system for dealing with this.

  10. I had my job interviews today. It started with an 8:00 am call asking to move the 11:00 videoconference to 9:00 am and just make it a phone call because technical issues. That one went really well. The 10:00 am videoconference was a bit tricky. After a few minutes of choppy talk at the top we switched to our phones for the audio portion. Video froze frequently which was a little jarring. At one point my phone somehow switched from headset to handset so she could hear me but not vice versa, and we both got a good laugh when the cat did a cameo and walked around the credenza that was behind me. It just seemed a little disjointed and I never felt like I really hit my stride, but all things considered I was satisfied with it. Fingers in an overlapping position.

    1. man, good luck.

      Dr. Chop had a video chat with students that our cat, bacon, decided to interrupt several times. Everyone seems to like a cat (video).

  11. I think I found an analogy for the anxious feeling people have. It's like all the psycho serial killers in all the prisons in the country escaped at the same time. We don't know exactly where they are, but we know they're out there, we know they're moving around at will, and we know they're killing more people all the time. They're all invisible and if you leave the house to go anywhere they might follow you home. And Batman is nowhere to be found.

    1. And all the toilet paper is sold out, and the hand sanitizer is also the vodka you’ve boiled the water out of.

      1. Technical question...wouldn't the alcohol evaporate off first? Am I thinking of the wrong kind of alcohol?

            1. I have been lobbying TPR about putting in a plum tree so I can make plum brandy in the barn.

              So far, no takers

              Seeing as how I:

              1) Have one uncle who was friends with Popcorn Sutton, and
              2) Have a cousin arrested (but not charged) with bootlegging

              I have some people who could do some consulting.

        1. You're correct- the ethyl alcohol will boil out of the water. Then you just need to condense the vapor to get your alcohol up over 60%. Or just buy something that's 120 proof and skip that whole operation.
          And stills are legal- just don't go get caught distilling alcohol without a permit.

              1. Not on point, but every time you abbreviate The Permanent Roommate as "TPR", I think you're living with one of AMR's family members.

    2. This is a good analogy because in addition to being suspicious of other people, other people have reason to be suspicious of you.

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