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Four Questions: April 14, 2020

I'm dogfooding the set of questions developed for my recording life project. And recording my life for my own benefit.


1. What did you do today?

I've been working long hours at ForUsAll, trying to get some tools together that will help people get access to their retirement savings under the CARES Act. The last few weeks involved a lot of working past midnight, which had knock-on effects on my wellbeing; this week, I'm trying to guard my time a little better. So far, I feel much better as a result.

My day involved a mix of writing code, having meetings, discussing company and product strategy, and pinning down technical implementation details. I spend at least half of my day in meetings, which drives me a little bit crazy, because it doesn't feel like getting things done. I like to make things a lot more than I like to talk.

2. What did you enjoy?

There was a moment where I was drinking my coffee and finishing off that day's blog post, and the morning light was streaming in, and I found myself thinking, "this is very nice". I like the quiet, and I like the tacit permission to stay in and work on things.

When I lived in the UK, I always felt like I needed to take advantage of any sunny day that came along. California sort of short-circuited that for me: they're mostly all sunny days. So despite everything, I'm enjoying having permission to stay indoors and read and write, which is when I'm at my happiest.

3. What did you find difficult?

I found myself getting short with some other managers at work - the endless stream of Zoom calls can wear me down, and if I find that a meeting is not covering important new ground, I'm finding it harder to be patient. I regret that, and I'll try and do better. I'm definitely finding that I have a shorter fuse under lockdown; for reference, though, my fuse is usually very, very long.

The biggest thing I found difficult is knowing that my mother is having a hard time. We spent over a fifth of last year in the hospital with her, and this spring she's progressively experiencing more pain and nausea. I don't want her anywhere near a hospital. Because she's immunocompromised, the risk of contracting Covid-19 is too great. I'm powerless, and I don't know what to do. I hope she starts to feel better.

4. What has changed?

This week I started to exercise after each meeting. 10 pushups after a meeting; 20 if I called it; X2 if it was unscheduled. It's actually genuinely added to my day - I felt like my muscles were atrophying. I think I'll start swapping out the exercises, though: sit-ups one day, push-ups another, and so on. I miss the gym. Gyms are terrible places, so this is saying something.

I've started to notice more cars on the road and people on the streets. I think people are either beginning to feel stir crazy, or the fear of pandemic has subsided. People are still social distancing - except for joggers, who are a scourge - but more of them are leaving their houses. I don't know if that's a good thing.

My Trumpiest relatives are now calling for everything to open again. I find that deeply disturbing. Their response is that "the majority agrees" with them, as if that's a counter to science. The majority of Americans enjoyed The Big Bang Theory. Forgive me if I don't have much faith.


Stretch questions:

5. What are you grateful for?

My health, and the continued health of my family. I'm particularly glad that my mother has not been re-admitted to hospital.

6. Which changes do you want to keep?

I'd love to see some of the societal changes stick around. We're cutting checks to people in need. We're helping the homeless to find unused places to live. We've emptied the jails for non-violent offenders awaiting trail, partially eliminating the predatory bail system. Some medical treatments are free at the point of use. All of those things are fantastic.

I also want to keep more flexible working from home policies: I think remote working is a deeply positive trend, for those that can do it. It opens up the whole country, and allows people who couldn't previously come into an office (eg carers and some single parents) to have access to jobs they wouldn't otherwise be able to do. Those are wonderful things.

7. What are you scared of?

Anyone I love getting the virus. Anyone getting the virus.

I'm also scared of some of the implications. I'm worried about calls for widespread surveillance. I'm deeply worried about the President declaring that he has absolute authority. I'm scared that the USPS will go away and that voting by mail won't be available for a general election in a pandemic.

In other words, I'm afraid of four more years or Trump, and I'm scared we'll come out of this situation with fewer freedoms and civil liberties.

8. What has stayed the same?

People. Work is surprisingly similar. The day to day of my mother's life in particular. The ludicrousness of our government.

9. When did you last laugh?

I think in a phone call with my sister, where she was describing her alternative life in Stardew Valley. She's been self-isolating with cold symptoms for a few weeks, and I'm looking forward to hanging out with her again when all of this goes away.

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