John Wolnisty is a long-time Vertech team member with enough gray hair to have some perspective on life. He decided to document his first few days under the COVID19 work from home directive. We thought you'd enjoy his unique perspective on the pros and cons of working from home and what's important in life. This is unedited, so sorry about the profanity at the end. :)
Monday starts like most Mondays – up way earlier than sane people and off to work. I’m bummed about finding out Microsoft Build 2020 was just cancelled. I look forward to going to Seattle every May. A total geek-fest where you can meet the people that wrote the software you use every day and find out what Microsoft is planning 2 or 3 years from now. Crud. Seattle is always beautiful that time of year, and I had just reloaded my OrcaPass transit card so I could use light rail while I’m there. I’m plugging away creating some Archestra objects for John James’ project with headphones on listening to Andy Shauf’s new album Neon Skyline.
Then I get the email.
The First Epistle of Titus to his disciples. “Thou shalt work from home until April 1”. Hoo boy. I’m one of those where work is work and home is home and never the twain shall meet. Tuesday I pack up my laptop and a few key reference books and stop by Intel to work for a couple of hours and coordinate how we’ll finish things off, as the project is 97.5% complete. I set up camp in my youngest daughter’s former bedroom. The biggest problem is clearing out all the wires and other stuff I play with after hours.
I just built a new computer with stuff from Black Friday sales with two 27” monitors so I put together a mish mash of my home machine and RDP sessions to my laptop to make a decent coding environment.
Wednesday – Day one of work from home.
The advice I’ve heard is to try to make it as “normal” a work day as you can. So I sleep in an extra 30 minutes (no commute!) then shower. Meh, I can forgo the razor a couple of days. Shorts and T-shirt. My camera has been taped over long ago. Open Visual Studio 2019 and click “Create New project”. Project name? VerConveyorConfig. 4:53AM. One cup of tea down. Off to a good start.
I’m jamming – database tables created, Entity Framework classes created. Test code written and run. Sirius/XMU streaming to my headphones. After a while I look up and at my watch – 10:47AM. Holy crap! How did the time fly by? This is great! The rest of the day went like this.
Day Two – Making a routine
Get up – same time – same routine. Crank away on code until 10:30. Send Jesse a “Ain’t it a lovely morning” text. My wife has been great about leaving me alone if the door is shut. Decide to take a break and go for a walk. Rain has passed. And hour and a half later – back at it. That longer mid-day break was nice. Maybe the Spanish cultures are on to something with the siesta thing.
Friday – TGIF
Looking shaggy – better shave today. Virtual bagel meeting at 8:00. How will I hurl snide remarks at Simpson? Using RDP to my laptop carried over the headphone but not the microphone. Oh well, that’s what the IM feature is for. Good turnout for the virtual bagel/Pop-Tart meeting. Crud – my Rockwell VM is out of date. I don’t want to kill the VPN by sucking down 15 gigs of install files. I’ll go into the office and install it there. 9:15 – arrive at the office. Eerily quiet. Installing Rockwell software is like watching paint dry. I’ll never complain about Archestra install times again. 11:15 – I’m out.
Friday afternoon. It’s been 3 days with limited contact. I know – I’ll fire up the radio. 14.070. There’s a guy calling CQ on PSK31. Contact. Gentleman in his 70’s living 50 miles from Houston. After the mandatory “my radio is a…” chatter, we talk about “The Situation”. He says both he and his wife are in the vulnerable category with their medical histories so they don’t leave the house. When they leave they wear a mask and gloves. All was going well until they had to go into the bank… Got a good laugh. Not a bad idea – get on the radio when I need a break. There’s a HellSchreiber contest on Saturday. I’ll give it a try.
Friday Evening. Nice day out today. Time for the post-dinner walk. I usually walk 2-4 miles every evening. Mostly there’s no one on the sidewalks and the neighborhood is quiet except for the drone of HVAC appliances. I like to walk along a, don’t know what you’d call it, a sidewalk that bisects the neighborhood, and has 4 feet of landscaping on either side. A parkway? Anyways on a typical walk, I’d see maybe one other soul walking and we’d pass with no acknowledgement. Every evening this week I’ve noticed something different. The neighborhood is not quiet. Dads are out shooting hoops with their kids. Moms are jogging along with a stroller. Entire families are out for a walk – kids in a wagon or on a bike and a couple of dogs in tow, Who are all these people? Never knew they lived here. And they all give a cheerful “Hi, how’s it going?” as they pass. Never in 29 years of living in the neighborhood have I seen so many people outside enjoying themselves. Weird – in a good way. Americans haven’t known a major “shared adversity” (conspiracy theories aside) in at least two generations. Maybe we’re taking this as a clue to lighten up and focus on what’s important.
Saturday. The (Catholic) bishop of Phoenix closed all churches. My wife and I are faithful Catholics, and missing Mass on the weekend will suck. A quick scan of YouTube shows hundreds of on-line Masses, both live and prerecorded. What’s interesting is we can attend Mass anywhere in the world. It is exactly the same worldwide, just maybe not in your language. We decide to watch a live stream from Bangalore, India in English. Spent half the day trying to figure out how we can select the Arizona team to send to the National Speech & Debate (high school) tournament in June. I’m on the state committee of 6 and it’s our job to make it happen. My gut feel is they’re going to cancel the National tournament anyways, or turn it into some Virtual thing that will end up a dumpster fire. I feel sorry for the students that will miss their chance. I feel sorry for the seniors that had half their senior year taken away. Your diploma is in the mail. Or worse – download the PDF and print it.
So after 3 full days, what do I like about working from home?
- Definitely more productive, so long as a have a project that is >95% solo work (most of mine are). I think I got 12 hours worth of work done in 8.
- My computer setup at home is faster, bigger, stronger
- No interruptions or distractions
- I can work in two “sprints” with a nice break in between
- Shorts and T-shirts
- Don’t have to worry about toxic fumes from shared restrooms
- If I get an idea on Saturday afternoon, I can try it out right away instead of waiting for Monday
- Going 72 hours without getting in my car
What don’t l like?
- The kitchen is too close and tempting
- There’s only so much of staring at the same 4 walls you can take
- Home now equals work where as before home was a refuge from work
- No one to share a quick joke with, or show something cool you concocted
- Home internet is slower
What did I think would be a problem, but isn’t?
- Being able to contact other employees if you need something / have a question – it has been easy and turnaround quick
- Staying focused – actually easier
- Access to resources – had to make one unexpected trip into the office
What really sucks about this crap? (Just venting, folks – in no particular order)
- The mess up of the National Tournament
- Not being able to go to MS Build
- Not being able to work at OCSD since January
- The hot mess that is trying to go shopping lately (although the beer aisle was full)
- The uncertainty of when this nonsense will end
- Looking at my 401K and knowing I can now retire at age 147
Not much we can do but keep a positive outlook. Keep up the faith (if you are so inclined). Keep in touch with family members, especially if they are elderly. Keep clean, healthy and sane. Code on.
And on a parting note – if I find one of those no good sidewindin' bushwackin', hornswagglin' cracker croaker TP hoarders, I’ll confiscate their TP then force feed them 65 Habanero chicken wings (extra grease).
If you like John's style, here's his take on Staying Current as Technology Changes. And if you don't like his style - eat a chicken wing.