MC's journal

Prickle-Prickle, the 9 day of Chaos in the YOLD 3187

YOLD 3186

Year of our Lady Discordia 3186, 2020 of the common era. The year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The year began with a colleague visiting me from Stockholm for some intense pair programming. In person! Imagine when that was possible!

Then I went with Ludvig and Gabriel to the mountains to ski for a week and then off to visit mom with #3. This was the only time I met my mom this year. I didn't meet my dad at all. P didn't meet her parents at all.

In late February I went to Stockholm for work as I usually do about once a month. Some time later the fever hit. P was also sick. We naturally thought it was the new influenza, but there were no tests at that time so we couldn't be sure.

We isolated ourselves in our cottage and spent a few weeks working there. See Life in the quarantine cottage. School wasn't closed, but we figured #3 should be isolated as well. She had class assignments over the Internet and I rescheduled my day a bit to help her.

Sweden didn't have any real lockdowns last year. Actual curfews and the like are not legal here in peacetime. There has been some movement in parliament about new laws about that but such things move slowly, as it should.

That said we have had a society with much reduced social activities. A lot of restaurants, hotels and similar business have gone under. Gyms and things like that are still nominally open, but with recommendations that we don't visit them, so they're mostly empty.

These "recommendations" are advice from authorities how to follow the law, so not to be taken lightly. There has been a lot of misunderstandings about this. The new laws might make things clearer.

The housing market has seen an upturn for country houses. People are moving from the cities. A lot of people seem to bet on a future friendlier to remote work. Or at least they finally get that country cottage.

Here's hoping for more remote jobs and better living, perhaps even communal living; the future we really wanted all along. See my mention of the NEXUS movement. Does it really take a pandemic to get there?

The schools are open. Secondary schools (16 to 19 year olds) have been remote-only twice last year, I think. It was just announced that 13 to 16 year olds will be having remote education when school starts again later in January after the holidays.

In Malmö remote education means Google Meet and Google Classroom, since this is the municipality's poison of choice. I hope it works out OK for the teenagers.

For younger students, there has been no arranged lectures or any way of participating remotely in ordinary classes, even though at one time 2/3 of the pupils in my daughter's class were at home. They arranged tasks through Google Classroom but it didn't work very well since there were no common introductions to anything and no sanctioned way to talk to a teacher.

I find it a bit strange that they didn't use more of the technology available to them, but then again, remote schooling hasn't even been formally allowed for the younger kids. I guess I can't really blame the teachers for following orders. I hope they will make better use of technology if they're formally allowed to plan for remote schooling.

In other ways the school's technology has helped #3 a lot this year, but that is unrelated to the pandemic and the school-from-home thing.

We didn't get back to Malmö until April. Then we worked mostly from home or the cottage the rest of the year. When things eased up a bit, I travelled to, I think, two meetings but other than that didn't travel at all to meet other people.

I managed to get to longsword practice a few times in the spring. Then, when things started easing up after summer, I managed to get to a few more before classes were cancelled. I continued practising at home with my feder. Luckily we have quite high ceilings in the flat and at least some distance to rather understanding neighbours in the cottage so I can practise on the lawn.

My back has taken a turn to the worse, though, and I haven't been able to use the training I usually do at the gym. Have to do something about that, but not sure exactly what to do yet.

I have continued to bike a lot. I now have two bikes, The Goth Bike, a matte black State 4130 with almost no markings in the city and a more no-name cheap thing in the cottage. Both are minimalist single-speeds, but not yet fixies, if they ever will be.

There's been a few changes at work. One of the most notable ones is that my closest colleague quit. It's now just a consultant and me in the Malmö office. I don't know if we'll keep the office or if it's back to working at home full time again, like before.

Another change is that we now work in product teams. I'm in Team DNS, although I still do some time & frequency work, mostly for fun at IETF hackathons.

I've been quite stressed out. A lot of overtime the first months of the year and at least one less person to help me with work. The product teams made things a bit better, I think.

We did a lot of work within our team to create a rather detailed technical roadmap. I think this makes it possible to pace work in a better way than before.

Other things I can't talk about also made work more stressful than it should have. Let's see what the new year brings.

I'm nominally still on a 6 hour work day. It's been a bit hard to keep myself to that, but I still think it's good idea in the long run for someone like me. For the coming year I'm going to try even more to keep to my hours.

I thought my IBS and dysphagia was worse than usual. Perhaps because of the stress at work and the pandemic. I started a stomach diary in July to see how this goes. It's a simple textfile with some formal formatting that I made up on the spot. It should be easy to plot with a script. It's entirely subjective, of course, but that's kind of the point.

My mood wasn't that stellar either, of course. I'm glad that I'm well medicated. I had some really dark patches that stretched out for weeks at a time that would probably had me hospitalized (or worse) without medication.

The most publicly visible part of my work during last year is now RFC 8915, the Network Time Security extension to the NTP protocol for a more secure way of setting time over the Internet. That said, I spent most of my time dealing with the anycast DNS infrastructure.

Here's a whitepaper about NTS I contributed to:

https://www.netnod.se/time-and-frequency/white-paper-how-does-nts-work-and-why-is-it-important

I inherited a very capable workstation from a colleague. It has an i9 CPU with a bazillion Hz, 64 gig RAM, et cetera, et cetera. I have moved most of my work to this beast, which I keep connected to a 34" widescreen, the HHKB Pro 2 keyboard and the CST L-Trac trackball I already had. Quite a change in pure oomph compared to working on the laptops I've used for years.

The smaller cottage in our country cottage was renovated because of a water leak. #3 liked the new little cottage so much that she claimed it for her own.

This meant we could make the room she usually slept in into an office. We bought some office furniture for the new office and another sit/stand desk to the flat as well. Standing desks FTW!

During #3's summer holidays we leased an electric car and moved to the country house for about two months. We couldn't travel far but we did some day trips with the electric car and took long walks in nice environments.

Someone rather close to me got diagnosed with a serious disease. I don't want to write more about it here right now. Maybe later.

Ludvig finished his university studies in sound design and moved back to us in Malmö. He was later joined by his girlfriend. He found a temporary job after a while but continues to look for sound design jobs and a flat of his own.

Gabriel is still studying computer security in Gothenburg. His school wasn't able to handle the pandemic very well. At first, they had no alternative when most of the students failed to find internships!

#3 grew taller than her mom! Not very hard, I admit.

She spends a lot of her time drawing or painting, mostly on paper, but also with an Apple Pencil in Procreate on the used iPad she got for her birthday. She did her first works in acrylic with her new easel that turned out rather good.

She also cut her hair like Zoe Zanias/Alison Lewis (Zanias/Linea Aspera) after having seen a music video with her. She's mostly dressed in black these days. She wants to go with me to both a wave/goth festival and to the next C3! We'll see if she still wants to when it's possible to travel again. Her English is coming along nicely, so maybe she could handle C3. I guess Gabriel might want to join us to both events, too.

P was supposed to run several marathon races during the year. She travelled to The Netherlands for one race but it was cancelled because of high winds! All the other races were then cancelled because of the pandemic.

A lot of other cancelled events, of course, among them the national HEMA championships my historical fencing club should have organized in May. I was also supposed to have been in the Swedish team in the NATO computer security exercise Locked Shields again. We had an initial meeting but then it was cancelled.

I moved back to Linux for my personal laptop. I have been trying to live in FreeBSD, HardenedBSD, and OpenBSD on the desktop for a couple of years now, but the promise of Wayland and better wifi brought me back. Not even using Xwayland anymore! See No more X11! My old Thinkpad x230 feels like a new computer!

I changed my e-mail client from Gnus to the Emacs frontend of Notmuch mail. This also meant I tried importing all the mail archives in different formats I had lying about since 1995. There are many annoying gaps, though, and sometimes only a few messages in the older archives.

I now have 126,584 mail messages indexed, which is at least something. I really wish I had saved, well, everything! Even from back in the Fidonet days, before 1991. That would have been interesting.

I re-read quite a lot of the e-mail messages that I have written during the years. I'm a bit ashamed, really. A lot of it is rather over the top. Too much information! I would also say I completely misjudged people's level of interest. Spot the aspie!

During the year I wrote very little e-mail, abouth 10% compared to ten years ago. I think most of my personal written communication has been over Signal instead. I still use IRC quite a lot as well, especially one channel on a private IRC server. Sometimes, even when there's not a global pandemic going on, it feels like most of my social life is on IRC. That's OK. I'm comfortable with that.

The only(?) plus of this pandemic: I've had a number of very nice, and sometimes very long (9 hours!), remote parties with far away friends, usually using video conferencing, sometimes two technologies at once. Really! Audio one way and video another. We have also watched movies together remotely with about half of fedi.

I spent quite some time with the MAME emulator trying to learn more about the peculiar Swedish school computer, the Compis, that I had access to during the mid-1980s. It was a nice Intel 80186-based, fanless thing with up to 768 kiB RAM, the same really nice graphics processor as the Japanese PC98, and a network with diskless boot facilities. Not bad for something designed in 1982!

I read a lot about the procurement process, the actual design and quite a lot of technical documents, and tried my hand at programming assembler under CP/M-86. I have heaps of notes. This will probably become at least a blog post and maybe a longer article. I now know a lot more about the Compis than I ever did at school. I'm now even more frustrated that our access to them was so limited!

The year finished, as usual, with the German C3 hacker conference. C3 this year was a Remote Chaos Experience, complete with a 2D world to mingle in, were we set up our Temple of the Moby Hack assembly. The usual suspects even had a video meeting running all the time, even when watching talks in another window/screen, just to get a feeling of being there with someone else. It kind of worked, but was a far cry from actually being there with ~17,000 other hackers.

Our Wednesday hacker's lunches have also been remote last year. We have tried almost every form of video conferencing technology there is, I think, but ended up mostly using Mumble.

I guess a lot of people not ordinarily used to video conferencing are now comfortable with it. I'm really interested to see what this does to people's, and especially the bosses, views of remote work!

I started being active on the fediverse last year, hanging out on SDF's Mastodon server: @mc@mastodon.sdf.org.

My Twitter account is still active but I'm not actively using it anymore, besides occassionally posting links to blog posts. Yes, I have more followers on Twitter but I don't feel like I want to contribute to Twitter anymore, especially not reading (or doing) any retweets.

In May I started keeping a journal (Org Mode, of course) of the books I read. I have read 39 fiction books since then, 38 in 2020 and 1 this year. 2020's disappointment was William Gibson's "Agency". I had to re-read his "Mona-Lisa Overdrive" just to make up for it. The best book was probably Erin Morgenstern's wonderful "The Starless Sea", which I truly recommend!


Written by MC using Emacs and friends.