Carl T. Holscher fights for the customers.

Tag: coronavirus

Day 92

The weekend is here again. Or is it gone already? How is it already 7pm on Sunday? They fly by without a trace.

Well, there is some trace. The new butterfly bush we planted yesterday after finding Country Nursery, a lovely little nursery. It meets my internal passing grade of a quality mom-and-pop nursery because you can never quite tell whether you’re supposed to be where you’re standing or not. Everything flows together.

Butterfly bush with purple flowers in green grass.
Butterfly bush, pre-planting.

We didn’t know this nursery existed until passing it on the way to Meadows Farms, the only nursery I know from frequenting one near the farm where I grew up.

Their prices on everything were far below anything Meadows Farms or Home Depot/Lowes can offer. As we talked to the woman behind the counter, she said “We order what people want to buy.” Which seems like a perfect way to do business.

We did buy a selection of indoor plants form Meadows Farms. A found a pair of cacti I allowed myself to buy after keeping the one I bought last year alive and doing well. Add to that a coleus (the red fuzzy one).

Annie got a Snake Plant and a ZZ Plant. Both hearty for shady indoor climates, which is our house.

This is our life now. Watching the birds at the feeders. Clearing areas to plant more bushes and flowers around our house. Annie is on a mission to remove anything that’s only green. It has to flower. It has to look pretty. And if it’s going to, it has to look pretty for as long as possible.

She lived in California when she was young and remembers the flowers everywhere, all the time. So while Maryland isn’t the same climate, replicate as much beauty as possible.

Purple flowers of butterfly bush up close.
Butterfly bush up close


I feel I’ve been hibernating.

I changed jobs in early March and the pandemic hit. I spent my days of government contracting waiting… Just waiting…

Then I took a job supporting Web Conferencing Platforms. You know what that means?

I support Zoom and Webex.

I had no idea the world would soon revolve around Zoom. It would be on the lips of millions of people across the world. Suddenly I had a skill set in massive demand.

My LinkedIn emails have never been so glowing. So many people are looking at your profile it crows seeking approval.

But while professionally I was a hot commodity, my days became a blur. I would stumble into my office at home and sit down to work.

Thankfully I had worked in that room for the past two or three years. It was well suited to the task at hand.

I was not.

I was learning Perl and how to call APIs. I was trying to sprint on the treadmill of Zoom’s constant changes. Their legal troubles. The public relations issues. But thankfully, no downtime. Say what you will of the company and their questionable choices, it has been solid and did not break under the weight of the world.

I would spend all day in that room. With periodic trips to fill my body with water, coffee and Coke then and relieve myself of the after effects of the same. My days were a blur. Even when I was able to stumble out of the room, I was often called back by the ding of an instant message or chime of an email requiring my skills or knowledge.

I wish I had kept a log of that time. It’s all a blur to me now. As the days continue to be. I wake up Monday morning and go to sleep Friday night in the space of a day.

The weekends come, or as my wife says, “that’s when I get to spend time with you.”

My week days feel short and frantic. My weekend days feel long and fulfilling. The weekend itself passes in the blink of an eye but those days I cherish and spend the time with my wife in our yard. Watching the birds at the feeder. Exploring post-apocalyptic West Virginia in Fallout 76 and finding the time to record a podcast.

It is somehow June. We are 12 days into June officially. Though I continue to insist it is February 243rd. That’s what it feels like.

The world has stopped and melted away into a fog of memory and remember whens.

At the same time, The World has become larger and more urgent. There was a protest march a block from my house this week.

There is a pandemic raging on.
Fueled my inept, uncaring leadership. The government has failed my wife and my family at every level.

While I am overwhelmed with work, my wife has seen 80% of her business vanish in a flash. She is self-employed and if it were not for telehealth she would be entirely our of work.

The Federal Government has failed her.
The State of Maryland had failed her.
Montgomery County has failed her.

She had applied for aid and waited… and waited… and waits.

Waits for aid that will never come.

We are living opposite lives in the same house. She is a Night Walker while I struggle to maintain a daylight schedule.

She looks at a business she spent 5 years building successfully get destroyed in a heartbeat. I look at a career that went from pause to hyperspeed.

I struggle to contain my work day and still have something left for her at the end of it. She stares down 22 hours in most days and tries to fill them.

I feel I’ve been hibernating since this all began. I don’t know what day it is. I have no clue what month we are in. Are there important events or milestones approaching?

I can only see the current day. Then I collapse. And start the next one underslept and overcaffeinated.

We have been in lockdown for 90 days.

Silo in a field.

How rural living prepared me for the quarantine

Considering I’ve been self-isolating a bit earlier than when the quarantine became mandatory in my country (Spain), I’m now on Day 33 of my stay-at-home life. So I’ve started wondering, What would I do if this was 1990 instead of 2020? How would my ‘quarantine lifestyle’ be like?

Riccardo Mori’s How I’d live this quarantine if it was 1990

I really enjoyed this post from Riccardo Mori about what it would be like to quarantine at home in 1990 instead of 2020. Our lives would not have looked much different.

I’d have lots of books to read (or finish reading) at my disposal.

I’d have tools and materials I could use to write my fiction, from an Olivetti electric typewriter, to a old IBM PC AT connected to a printer.

I could keep in touch with friends and relatives via landline telephone.

I could get the news and a bit of entertainment from TV, radio, and papers.

I could listen to vinyl records, CDs, and cassettes on the home Hi-Fi stereo, or in my room with my old Walkman. My parents owned a fair amount of records, there was always music in our home.

In 1990 I was still living with my parents, so if we wanted to spend time playing together, we would take out our boxes of board games and cards.

In 1990, I was 9 years old so my life would look drastically different. I’d be on a farm with dial-up internet. (We had 26400 bps on a good day). I wouldn’t be worrying about how my investments were doing, nor what I’d be making for dinner every night.

I wouldn’t be doing any of the adulting tasks I would now. I would be playing outside in the woods. Riding my bike around the dirt roads. Playing video games and reading books (I was a voracious reader.)

I would not be distant learning through any video chat. I wouldn’t be working on assignments online. There was barely a line then and it had to be turned on with a telephone line. It was still a process to go online.

Instead of trying to think about the obvious differences of being a child instead of an adult, I think about how my life then has prepared me for life now.

I have a lust for learning and reading. That started young and never stopped. I tore through books and read through anything I got assigned or got my hands on from our local library. Rural libraries are a gift and a lifeline.

I always had projects to do. When I was a kid, it was teaming with my brother in NBA Jam to keep track a record book of our accomplishments, or keeping track of where we were in Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger or Secret of Mana.

I had a steady supply of books and acres of open space to run around in and explore. I grew up on an 82 acre farm, then 40 acres. I could barely see a glimmer of lights at night from the neighbors house in the winter when the leaves were off the trees. It was 60 miles form the capital of our country, but felt an entire world away from everything.

I think about that all the time. Even more now as we’re sitting inside trying to figure out how to make dinner interesting and what pantry items we can use up today.

I think about how well growing up in the country prepared me for having to manage my own entertainment and fill the hours of my days.

The internet has certainly given more opportunities for exploration and communication. But learning to fill the unstructured hours of my youth prepared me well for the modern Quarantimes.

Coronavirus Diary 1

I’ve made a huge mistake.

For the past two years I worked from home. I would sometimes go multiple days between leaving the house other than getting the mail or refilling my bird feeders. I was a government contractor support Webex, and a host of other teleconferencing options for a government agency you’ve heard of.

I am particularly well-suited for remote work as I’ve had the time (and money) to setup a space that’s not grandiose by any means but far surpasses anything I’ve ever found at a job site.

I have a hand-crank standing desk from Ikea that I dearly love. Not always because I want to stand, but I’m tall and often times desks aren’t high enough for me. It’s a huge open workspace I can lay out computers and notebooks and whatever I’m tinkering with at the time with room to spare.

I have two monitors setup amongst my small army of computers. I have two windows I can open for cross-breeze. I can control the temperature and amount of light at any given time. Those last two are the biggest benefits of working from home. Light and temperature control are so often overlooked at offices.

I’m also extremely introverted. I’ve got lists of books and projects and things to do miles long. To be inside is to be in my element.

My wife and I do not have any children so we are not trying to figure out how to keep small people entertained and educated all day, while stressing about them, and the coronavirus and the state of the world and… and… and…

It is a great irony not lost on me that on my birthday this year, in Mid-February I resigned from my full-time remote job to take another job in an office. Albeit very nearby which allows me to avoid all of the Interstates and Beltway hellscapes of Washington DC area traffic.

But it means going to work. In an office. Away from my perfect work place. Right at the start of this outbreak.

That lasted a week.

Then I was sent back home since I’m in a position where my job can be done remotely. Which I understand is a completely privileged position. The place where I work relies on people being in the office so many don’t have the same luxury.

Where did I decide to take a job right at the start of a global pandemic where millions of people are being sent home to work or quarantined in their homes?

Why, a company that specializes in remote collaboration of course! My new role is to oversee Webex and Zoom webinars for clients of all sizes including many large companies and government entities you’ve heard of.

I jumped out of the frying pan and directly into a seething volcano! It’s been a breakneck pace for the past week trying to get up to speed and onboarded into a new company, all the while everything is on fire!

This is how my week has been going. And how next week will go. And how the weeks for the foreseeable future will continue.

It’s thrilling being right in the middle or building something and racing to troubleshoot and put out fires with the technology platforms our business relies on. All while trying to learn the business and how it all works internally. I’ve had just as many people ask me this week how my first two weeks have gone as had said how much they appreciated my help with something or expertise I was able to provide. Or even having a warm body to hand a task off to and trust it would get done.

It’s a satisfying feeling knowing I am appreciated and that I can step in and immediately contribute. And those contributions aren’t overlooked. I’m no longer one number on a huge spreadsheet somewhere. A cost for a large government contractor to worry about spending money on. Worried I’ll ask for more or want more out of my position.

As much as it’s nice to know I’m an asset, it’s just as stressful. We use a lot of remote cloud-based applications with work and they’re struggling to keep up at times. Zoom and Webex overall seem to be doing a good job at the basics, but not a day goes by I don’t have a stream of alerts and notifications of various issues with both platforms.

Many of the them are simply limitations of capacity. There are only so many phone lines into a country. There are only so many ports for data and voice to travel across. Just as with cars and trucks sharing a road, the same is true for the internet. And we are going to test that infrastructure like never before.

I’m thankful to still be working. I’m thankful to still be healthy. I’m thankful to have been part of a religion for a time that pushed preparation and saving. It’s serving us well as we have safety nets and savings in place for ourselves.

We are lucky.

And if you made it this far, here’s a silly picture of Zoom multi-platform testing.

Testing Zoom on Mac, Linux and Mobile.

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