2020 was the pandemic year. The first real pandemic year. The year of COVID-19.
The news was talking about it from the start of the year, in Wuhan. We weren't too concerned because there have been a few diseases starting over in Asia that haven't translated into big problems elsewhere: SARS, various bird and swine flus. It's hard to tell the difference between general media clickbait extremism, and extreme but real actual news. The first hint I saw was a tweet saying that this new virus had an R0 around 3. And that meant it was bad.
China started locking down. America banned travel from China which was instantly dismissed as racist by some, but most of us felt it was (for once) probably reasonable. It was too late.
I've seen Outbreak, but not Contagion. My expectations for a global pandemic were for something really obviously horrible (eg, Ebola), followed by swift tracing of its origins, then Cuba Gooding Jr would fly a helicopter, collect a monkey, look at a microscope and we'd have a cure by the weekend. It'd get stressful, sure, but we know how to handle it.
It didn't go that way. It took a long time for the WHO declare it "technically" a pandemic. It tooks MONTHS for everyone to realize the primary form of transmission was through the air. MONTHS. Masks were unnecessary, then necessary, then mandatory. Schools closed, then opened a bit, then as the case rate rose, they were forced to not reopen unless they had already reopened.
It was an election year and federal leadership fell apart. Any fool can lead when times are good but when times are hard, you find the leaders who were quietly building the whole time, saving for the rains that inevitably follow.
What did we do this year? We stayed home.
In January I kicked off with the opposite. I went for a week in Houston with the whole of Twitter for their biannual OneTeam convention. I enjoyed it: I stayed out too late, drank too much beer, and jogged too far and too fast for my old muscles.
In February I got flu, and needed to cancel my JSConf Hawaii trip at the last minute. I figured that someone with flu wouldn't be popular on a flight or at a convention at the moment. I was right.
On March 3rd, we were "highly recommended" to work from home. I went home. The following week, the office closed.
The boy (8) was sent home from school for Spring Break with the expectation that he will not return. Advice from school and the school district changed on a weekly basis. They switched to Zoom lessons and Google Classroom. They got Chromebooks. It took a long time for his teacher to adapt to being able to teach 22 kids through Zoom each day, from 8am to 2.30pm. I still think this is quite a feat.
The boy (3) didn't want to go to school any more and we'd already stopped taking him. He'd been unhappy since moving from the baby group to the bigger class, and the teachers weren't helping him adjust. We pulled him out and had planned a different preschool after summer, but ultimately never even signed him up.
All of the work we've done on the house has proven a worthwhile investment when you find yourself stuck inside. I've got a neat office which I share with the boy (9) for most of the day. We've just got ceiling lights installed for the winter.
Out in the backyard we got a small pool, and then got a bigger pool when I realized the need for it, and how to do it. It's above ground, and it's 18ft by 9ft and about 4ft deep, so you can really swim. It's been fantastic.
I built a maze using canes and plastic fencing! I thought it would be fun, but it proved to be a hell of a lot of work (mazes have a surprising number of corners) and the boys ran it once (1) before they got bored.
As we neared Thanksgiving, cases were dropping and I figured a safe vacation could be had in Tahoe by renting a house for a week through AirBnB. We avoided Thanksgiving week itself (to avoid the rush), and had a great time, always keeping our distance and keeping masked. It was hard work, because you're locked in with the kids 24/7, but we did it. We got to play in the snow.
I was sad to cancel summer plans, and I was sadder not to be able to chat and drink beer with fellow humans this summer. I hope to take some extended leave when and if this whole thing clears up.
We got a dog. He's called Tiny. I'm still not thrilled about it, but it has made me more comfortable around dogs, which is probably a good thing. He's a small woofy dog. He chews up the toys.
Being trapped in the house together is hard work. A four year old is particularly hard work. I'm writing this having spent the past two Christmas weeks together. Frankly, I'm exhausted. Working next to the boy is quite stressful; I need to pay attention to what he's doing all the time and it's a constant distraction; but when he finishes at 2pm I do get a few hours of calm. That is important.
I've focused on tasks that I can do without needing to interact with numerous other coworkers because I was struggling with those. The added stress of the boy next to me, and not being able to chat to people in real life really hit hard. I value real life interactions, especially when working through misunderstandings. On the other hand, Twitter is moving towards remote work in a big way. I know it can be fine, but I prefer real life.
I worked on a big project this year (Batman) that didn't make it to production, which is sad. And I worked on a smaller project that involved removing a whole website, which made nintendo and kindle users sad (but made our oncall rotation happy).
This year I celebrated ten years at Twitter. Which is, wow. My younger self is disgusted at the thought. My current self knows a good thing when he sees it.
Ending the year, there is hope for the vaccine. There are about 6 billion people who need it before I do, but equally I loathe being sick so I'm looking forward to it. I expect to be able to get it in the summer. Seems like it'll still take time after that before we can get back to normal. Or whatever the new normal will be. I'm cautiously optimistic, but the news of a more contagious strain is worrying.
Next year, I'd like to be fitter. I've been running a little more, and I've got a trainer through future.co to help build my strength and flexibility. I'm hoping that will improve my general aches and pains more than any doctor will.
Onward to 2021.
Thanks for reading! I guess you could now share this post on TikTok or something. That'd be cool.
Or if you had any comments, you could find me on Twitter.